Listening can improve our lot in the world.
The Importance of Listening
So I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of listening. The power of what that seemingly simple act can do. The difficulty many people have with doing it. The difficulty some people have with receiving it. What listening really is. How one’s body, heart and soul feel when truly deeply being listened to.
Surprised to hear Trump listening
I witnessed Donald Trump actually listening to someone for a few seconds, and was aware of a completely different and hopeful feeling I had about him in the process. He was holding “listening sessions” – which of course grabbed my attention – not with the sense of outlandishness around “What’s he doing now?” that I often feel; but with a sense of novelty and curiosity that he might be on to something…
He was conducting a listening session (I love that term) to hear people talk about their concerns with the opiate/heroin crisis going on throughout the nation – something that crosses party, class and racial lines and affects many. That he wanted to hear of struggles from people was in itself astonishing to me; but when I heard the audio clip and his manner, I was completely surprised.
How to Really Listen
The clip I heard was indeed a clip, lasting no longer than four or five seconds. The woman was talking about her grief; missing her late son’s laughter and smile. Donald Trump was the designated listener and asked a couple of gentle questions… “This began innocently with an injury?” He paused and listened. “What drug was it?” The woman answered. He responded with a supportive comment and tone, “hmmm. I see…” He asked another woman about her own recovery with what seemed like a genuine inquiry about her suffering “What was that like?” He spoke softly, seemed to listen, didn’t interrupt, and let the woman go on. He made no reference to himself nor blamed others for the difficulties being shared – at least for those three or four seconds of audio clip that I heard. For a moment he seemed open to another human being’s struggle and story.
Now that I’ve had a chance to read the whole transcript of that listening session, I realize those handful of seconds that I happened to tune in on were the highlight of his listening capacity. Still, I was inspired.
The power of being listened to or not
I did carry the impact of those precious listening moments for several weeks and reflected on the felt feeling of those listening moments when they do occur. I know the meaningfulness of being listened to, and the pain of not being listened to. When one feels listened to, they generally feel safe, centered, understood, of value, whole. Donald Trump’s few seconds of listening reminded me of the power of being listened to, and made me wish for more listening to go on in our daily lives.
Is anybody really listening?
All we ever want really in life is some sense of being listened to. Listening precedes understanding. Most people feel that the most important people in their lives don’t really listen to them (parents, spouses, children, bosses, friends, relatives). And that usually makes them feel isolated, sad or overwhelmed, devalued.
And a lot of us try to protect ourselves by not allowing ourselves to deeply listen to another. We’re afraid we won’t get our own story in, or we’re busy planning for something else that hasn’t yet happened, so we interrupt or make judgments about what our loved one has just said or simply don’t pay attention. Sometimes unknowingly we listen in a way that makes the speaker shut down; feel self-consciousness or shame. As a society we have a lot to learn about how to really listen.
I will be sharing more about the heart and art of listening in future posts. In the meantime, I’d like to hear from you. Imagine I’m having a “listening session” and wanting to hear from you about what your concerns and struggles are. What would you like me to address about listening; or relationships, or anxiety and depression, or mindfulness in daily life? Reply to this email / post and I will listen with heart.
Until the next time, I wish you many moments of heart-felt listening.
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