Listen up

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

(Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change)


I am a person who loves to listen. Therefore, naturally, I've spent many years observing those who love to talk.

I will admit, at times I've bristled as others pour meaningless words into pristine silences, somehow afraid that the expansion of a pause is to be feared. They seem to run from it by dousing it with words as one would douse flames with water.

But silence doesn't singe anyone. While, I have drowned in others barrage of alphabet combinations.

And, I confess that I've judged the interrupters, the over-talkers, the talk-just-to-talkers.

I've also judged myself.

I've rendered harsh criticism for my loss of words in professional settings. I've ruminated on how my listening preferences seem to diminish my perceived competency to lead. And, in personal settings, I've pondered whether our quiet at the dinner table will somehow cultivate the same challenges (or gifts?) to the next generation.

Yet, in the end, I've come to see listening as an incredible value in the world.

After years of feeling my preference for listening was a liability, I finally began to hear people when they'd tell me "thank you for listening."

And, I've arrived at this: I feel the call to help others cultivate their own listening powers so that they, too, can create the magic that listening seems to render. The magic of truly seeing another person, of witnessing their experience, and of offering care, comfort and compassion simply by letting them be heard.

In these next posts, I plan to unleash some radical curiosity on the magic of listening. What it takes to be a great listener, why it matters, when it matters, and how to get better at it.

My hope is to reframe the world's over-valuation on talking and bring the scales back to where they should be -- a world where the intricacies, complexities, and skills of listening is celebrated, taught in schools, and used as criteria for professional promotions. Because then...we might be able to hold space for others in a way that heals, educates, and connects.

I believe it's possible.

And, I believe it's the work of our time.

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