Listening

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“Being listened to is so much like being loved, it’s usually impossible to tell the difference.”  That’s a Life Mantra for me.  Probably because I grew up in a home where one person talked incessantly, and I seldom felt like my life was interesting enough to be asked questions, it’s been my lifelong habit to cultivate friends who truly want conversations to be mutual.  People who like listening as much as talking.  Who are as curious about me as I am about them.  Intelligent people who don’t “approach every issue with a completely open … mouth.”

My favorite Executive Presbyter (they’re like bishops in the Presbyterian Church, like “a pastor to the pastors”) has a sign on her desk that says it in another way:  “What these people need is a good listening to!  I not only believe it, I love it.  And of course, I’ve practiced it perfectly all my life, with my family and friends.  NOT!  (But I strive.)

A funny but slightly condescending way of putting it is an oft-quoted phrase from someone who spends a lot of time in organizations’ meetings.  “There comes a point where everything that needs to be said has been said, but not everyone has said it.”  Setting the snidie aside, that’s often true.   A similar view came from Henry Miller: “Somewhere along the way one discovers that what one has to say is not nearly so important as the telling itself.”  But, as my Densa friends say, “Irregardless….”

So we embark on a conversation.  Whether you decide to respond to this or another blog post, or comment on The Kairos novel, or raise some other issue that’s important to you, my “talk” for today is over, and I trust yours will begin.  I’m listening.  (Others will be, too.)  What are you thinking?

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5 Responses to Listening

  1. Sheri Sooy says:

    Listening can be an acquired skill. Sometimes it’s hard work but, it is worth the effort. I have ‘listened’ for all of sixty-six years but really learned to listen through my volunteer training with SHANTI. The importance of listening to my clients gave me the most wonderful gift. Two incredibly special men shared their hearts with me.

    I truly love your way of putting this on paper…it is a mantra to begin each day for us all. Tuesday is a long time to wait, but, as a loyal person, I shall.

  2. Congrats on your website. Your reflections here remind me of feminist theologian Nelle Morton, who wrote about the power of “hearing each other into speech.” In that sense, she imagined God like a giant ear hearing us into speech. Surely God is listening to you now, Paul.

  3. George Larson says:

    Congratulations on such an impressive work of heart and art. Looking forward to reading an idea that has become a story.

  4. Your comment that “what one has to say is not nearly so important as the telling itself” reminds me of a technique I heard one high tech company implemented.

    It’s common for a programmer to demand that someone else listen to a summary of the current bug he’s working on. Halfway through the discussion, however, the programmer often says, “… uh, never mind.” He’s stumbled upon the answer. The very act of describing the problem forced the programmer to think in different ways–ways that helped to solve the problem.

    That brings me back to the curious technique in that high tech company. The story goes that they had a mannequin in an empty room available 24/7 to listen to problems. And the very act of explaining the problem often introduced the solution.

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