Have you lost a friend or partner who was a FABULOUS listener? I did and it was a deep loss. We can’t bring that person back; however, we can commit to becoming a better and deeper listener as a way of honoring that person’s memory. The national and worldwide calls for ending racial injustice and police reform require us to listen deeply to our neighbors and colleagues. This is the time to focus on this important skill that we usually take for granted.
Improved listening has the benefits of enhancing intimacy and empathy.
- Asking a person about “third things”, a term coined by Quaker educator Parker Palmer to refer to external things, such as someone’s likes or dislikes. These are safe topics to begin building a connection on. Find out about the back stories and experiences. But note that careful listening takes energy and focus, so be aware of willingness to engage and time constraints. “Tell me more about your interest in….” is a good conversation starter.
- Talking about hypotheticals is another strategy. When you extend an invitation to speak, you need to respond in a thoughtful feeling way to what you heard. Often people respond about themselves, and that gives the speaker the feeling that s/he hasn’t been heard.
- Resisting problem solving, if one is presented. People want recognition, understanding and acceptance.
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