Episode 118: Are You REALLY Listening? Sanford Meisner, Acting and Psychology

MichaelTherapy13 Comments

Psychology of ActdingA lot of people get into psychology because they think they have good listening skills, but are you really a good listener? What does it mean to be a good listener? In this episode I look at a fascinating acting exercise created by Sanford Meisner called the “repetition exercise” which trains actors how to truly listen. Are you as good a listener as these trained actors?


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13 Comments on “Episode 118: Are You REALLY Listening? Sanford Meisner, Acting and Psychology”

  1. Confused – where is the link to download the podcast?

    Love the site – psychology grad student here.

  2. Hi Thomas – sorry for the confusion. I’d tried out a new audio player for this episode, but then decided today to go back to the old style which was easier to use. You’ll see the download link above now.

  3. Congrats, Michael, on the 5000 subscribers, that is pretty exciting! You have a lot of good stuff so it isn’t hard to believe. This was definitely pretty confusing to me – especially when I think about trying to incorporate it into listening but I liked that you point out that all the “active listening” techniques really aren’t listening at all…

  4. Thanks Kevin – yea, I hit 5,000 subscribers just a couple weeks ago and I was happy to see it. Just a number I guess, but you know….As far as incorporating the Meisner technique – I don’t think we can use the technique of repeating in our daily lives, but I think the idea of keeping our minds “empty and open” while listening to others is an idea to keep in mind. Again thanks!

  5. Hi Michael,
    I recently discovered your podcasts on iTunes and I LOVE them! I listen to several episodes everyday. As a student of psychology and counselling I’ve written a lot of essays on the importance of active listening and I’ve also tried to practice it in my personal life. It sure is a beautiful concept, but much harder to apply in reality as I often get the feeling of being “stuck” in my own head which prevents me from truly listening with an “empty” mind. I guess active listening really is a mindful process that requires lots of practice!
    Thanks again for all the great and inspirational podcasts!

  6. Bri: thanks for the comment. Someone who can truly listen to you is a pretty rare experience isn’t it? You’ve got a real friend when you can find someone who can do that. And therapists have to be careful not to have their heads filled with “helpful information/suggestions/ideas” that they don’t really listen.

    Glad you found the podcast and are enjoying it.

  7. I am a professional actor and it was interesting to hear a headshrinkers perspective of the Meisner Technique and acting. I think you summarized what the technique’s goal is pretty well and how it can be applied outside of acting. Instead of an empty mind though, through years of experience, I feel that we listen with an unfiltered, uncensored mind. We function on the level of impulses, no pre-judgements, no pre-determined ideas of what you will do or say but interacting on a “moment to moment” basis. In short, if you’re thinking in words, you’re thinking too much. I’d love to talk more about Psychology, acting and the psychology of acting if you’re ever interested. Thanks.

  8. Adam: glad to hear that I was able to capture the essence of the Meisner technique. However, I like your idea of an “unfiltered mind” instead of an empty one. Do you have a website or something I might be interested in following up on your suggestion about a discussion on psych and acting.

  9. I do not have a website, just a facebook page. I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have for me though. A little about me, I graduated from South West Texas State University with a BFA in Directing for Theatre and a minor in Musical Theatre then went straight to grad school for my MFA in Acting at Harvard University’s Institute for Advanced Theatre Training at the American Repertory Theatre and Moscow Art Theatre. My faculty was basically half American and half Russian and we spent a semester in Moscow at the Moscow Art Theatre with our Russian faculty. I’ve worked professionally in theatre, film and commercials but my love is the theatre. I am currently reading Adaptation to Life by George Vaillant, recommended to me by a Harvard Psych alum when I asked him what books he thought could be useful to an actor.

  10. Wow – what a background you’ve got! MFA from Harvard and advanced training at the Moscow Art Theatre! Very impressive. Someone else told me about this Adaptation to Life book (wasn’t you was it? It’s late as I’m writing this and I may be a little groggy). What’s this book about? Guess I should look it up on Amazon.

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