February 21

Today's quotation:

There is a silence that matches our best possibilities when we have learned to listen to others.  We can master the art of being quiet in order to be able to hear clearly what others are saying. . . . We need to cut off the garbled static of our own preoccupations to give to people who want our quiet attention.

Eugene Kennedy

Today's Meditation:

I've known very few good listeners in my life.  I've been a good listener much less often than I've wanted to be.  I try really hard to listen well because I know that it's the most respectful thing that I can do for another person, but it is very difficult for me because there's so much that I want to contribute to the conversation.  So instead of listening all the time, I often think about what I'm going to say, and instead of responding directly to what the other person has said, I say the words that I had thought of a while before.

We do have a lot of interference in our brains when it comes to listening to others.  We have thoughts and desires and biases and judgments to work through, because as soon as they come up, our listening skills are compromised.  As soon as I start formulating a response to someone, I'm not listening fully any longer.  I'm astonished at the people who are on their phones or computers while supposedly listening to someone else--and who still claim that they're hearing everything that's being said.  They're not.

Listening to another person may be the best thing we ever can do for him or her.  Paying close attention to what they're saying can be the greatest show of respect that anyone ever shows them.  Actually hearing what they're saying, as well as what they're not saying, may be the most helpful thing we ever can do for our fellow human beings.  Yet few of us are taught how to do it, so we need to find our own ways of learning how to listen, and practice the skill as much as possible, with everyone with whom we interact.  If we do so, we can be doing something for them that perhaps no one else truly does.

It can be a great challenge to refrain from responding, and just listening.  It can be very hard not to judge, and just to listen.  But it's a challenge that's worth taking on, for when we do listen to other people, we're strengthening our world by helping another person to find a strength that he or she might not have been aware they had.

Questions to consider:

When was the last time that someone truly listened to what you said?  How did it make you feel?

Why do we spend so little time actually listening, and so much time formulating our own responses?

How might we go about practicing our listening skills?
For further thought:

Listening may be one of the most important activities we can choose to participate in in our entire lives.  Listening--really good listening-- involves a great deal more than our ears.  To listen, we need to empty ourselves for a while.  We need to adjourn the committee in our heads and invite its members to take an extended vacation.  In order to listen fully, we have to be able to dismiss idle head chatter, criticism, and judgmentalism.  Otherwise, our heads are far too crowded to have room for anything new.

Anne Wilson Schaef

more on listening

  
  

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