From the daily prompt:
Last year we put a man and a sofa in the middle of a town square with a sign that said ‘I will listen’. You don’t have to make quite such a bold statement, but hold the sentiment in mind. Do people think of you as a good listener? Do you actually give that person your whole attention, and are you non-judgemental? You will be surprised by how many people around you are desperate simply to be heard. Make a mental note of the things the person says, and any needs they mention…it’ll be helpful later on…
There was a link to a TED talk on listening, where the speaker, Julian Treasure, suggests that, as a community, we are losing the ability to listen meaningfully to others, and this failure to really listen and understand what the other is saying leads to misunderstanding, conflict, oppression and hatred.
He offers five ways to improve our listening skills:
- to find time for three minutes silence (or, at the least, quiet) a day. To pause. To reconnect. To hear silence.
- When in a situation with noise try to identify the different “channels” of noise. So, on a walk, identify birdsong, water, distant traffic… In a coffee bar identify different voices, the hiss of the coffee maker, the clatter of cups…In an office, hear the phone ringing, the buzz of conversation, the filing cabinet being opened…
- “Savouring” – enjoying the mundane sounds. The hum ofthe computer, the bubbling of the kettle…The speaker loves the sound of the tumble drier, identifying the rhythm of a waltz in the tumbling.
- He talked about shifting “listening positions” – not whether you are sitting or standing (!) but from critical to empathetic, from reductive to expansive, from active (I think you should do this…that happened to me…I bet you felt awful) to passive (What do you think you should do?…Uh,huh, tell me more…So how did that make you feel?)
- Rasa – a mnemonic which is also a Sanskrit word meaning “essence”. The essence of good listening is RASA – Receive, Appreciate, Summarise, Ask.
This is an interesting challenge. People have said I’m a good listener…I don’t know about that, but I do know that the one person I am guilty of not listening to so well is Mr D – especially if he’s talking computers…! The speaker said that on his wedding day he promised to listen to his wife every day “as if it was the first time”. I like that thought. So although it may not be today that I am called on to start really listening to him, today is the day I take on the challenge to really listen to Mr D even when I don’t fully understand what he’s talking about! I won’t phase out and start thinking about when I’m going to be cooking dinner, or whatever.
Watching the video of the man-and-a-sofa from last year’s 40Acts, the people interviewed afterwards said that the experience made them feel valued, and worthwhile. The fact that, in this busy world, someone was willing to give up their time to listen made the other person feel important. This is what we are to God: we are important because we are his children. And we should be helping others to understand their value, in their own eyes and in the eyes of God.
To finish with, here is a picture of a sculpture in Milton Keynes, where we used to live. I liked MK very much, and one of the things I liked was the amount of public art that was scattered around the city. This one is outside the public library and is called “The Whisper”.
As Julian Treasure said: “Listen conciously to live fully”