Is anybody listening?

by | Apr 13, 2022 | Formation, Reflections

Who is listening?

  • The world wonders who Putin is listening to.
  • People in Ukraine wonder whether the world is listening to their cries.
  • Red states wonder if blue states are listening… and vice-versa.
  • Catholics of a certain age wonder if younger people have faith.
  • Poor people wonder who is listening to their cries for the necessities of life.
  • Parents don’t think their children share their values.
  • Young people don’t think they are being heard.

I don’t think I need to document any of the above.

Listening is more than waiting for a chance to respond or rebut the other.

What is listening?

I was reminded of all this when I rediscovered the words of Henri Nouwen.

“Listening is much more than allowing another to talk while waiting for a chance to respond…The beauty of listening is that, those who are listened to start feeling accepted, start taking their words more seriously and discovering their own true selves. Listening is a form of spiritual hospitality by which you invite strangers to become friends.”

Pope Francis warns against sound-proofing our hearts In a homily, Francis asked,

“In the church, are we good at listening?”

How good is the hearing of our heart?

Do we allow people to express themselves, to walk in faith even though they have had difficulties in life, and to be part of the life of the community without being hindered, rejected or judged?

Let us not soundproof our hearts.”.

Am I listening?

Research shows that only about 10 percent of us listen effectively.

Maybe we should ask ourselves “How good am I at listening?”.

Before we can listen to others, we may need to listen to what we ourselves say … or don’t say.

There is a kind of listening which is called ”listening with the third ear”. So thought  Theodor Reik, a pioneering therapist in the middle of the last century. He urged listening for the deeper layers of meaning in order to glean what has not been said outright

You can’t hear what is in another’s heart if you have soundproofed your heart with your own certitudes. It is the opposite of listening.

“Oh, but I have not soundproofed my heart!” Really? Research shows that only about 10 percent of us listen effectively. If you want to know whether you have soundproofed your heart, there are some tell-tale wrdss that you should feel comfortable using.

We often think that we are listening but we’re actually just considering how to jump in to tell our own story, offer advice, or even make a judgment—in other words, we are not listening to understand, but rather to reply.

Becoming a better listener

Listen to what you say… or don’t say …especially in difficult conversations. Would you be comfortable using the following expressions?

  • “I really appreciate your being willing to discuss this.”
  • “Let’s clarify …”
  • “I’m happy to talk about it, as long as we play cards afterwards.”
  • “I want us to talk even though things might not get resolved.”
  • “Let’s see what we can agree on.”
  • “Thanks for helping me understand where you are coming from.”
  • “Something doesn’t feel right. Let’s talk about it. Would now be okay?”
  • “You’ve talked about this before, but I want to really understand it.”

This is by no means the best or most complete list.

But these and similar questions keep a conversation going.

Did you know that Jesus is recorded asking 339 questions?


Listening in on our own political… or ministerial conversations

  • Which statements do you rarely use?
  • Are you willing to commit to using some of these more frequently?
  • Pay attention to where the conversation goes when you use them.

Originally posted on Vincentian Mindwalk


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