“Part of doing something is listening. We are listening. To the sun. To the stars. To the wind.”
― Madeleine L’Engle, Swiftly Tilting Planet
Karl A Menninger, psychiatrist, once said, “Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.”
Listening is an act of life, of faith, of beauty, of hope. It requires absolute mindfulness.
When we listen, we create. It is our gift to our world.
“We do not grow by knowing all of the answers, but rather by living with the questions.”
Max De Pree, Businessman and Writer
How many questions will you be asking today? I confess I have no idea. My “educated” guess would be in the hundreds, beginning on Monday morning when I ask, “Where did the weekend go?” Most of our questions seek knowledge and start with the usual who, what, where, when and why. For example:
Who did that? What went wrong? Where are they? When are you going to grow up? Why did this happen to me?
Bono once said, “We thought that we had the answers, it was the questions we had wrong.” Perhaps if we asked different questions, more people would listen.
Who can I help? What can I do? Where can I make a difference? When do you need me? Why don’t we work together?
“The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a very creative mind to spot wrong questions.”
Antony Jay, English Writer, Broadcaster and Director
“Learning is a result of listening, which in turn leads to even better listening and attentiveness to the other person. In other words, to learn from the child, we much have empathy, and empathy grows as we learn.”
Alice Miller, Polish Psychologist and World Renowned Author
The study of language begins before we utter a single word. We learn to speak by listening. It is the first step in our education.
We relied on others to give us our voice. And from that moment, we were well on our way to expressing and articulating our needs and desires. Sometimes with strident persistence and at other times, with calm assurance or anxious concern.
Time serves as a formidable obstacle. With only so many hours in a day and a fixed supply of energy, we are limited by our finite existence. This is when we must be selective and chose those conversations that inspire and challenge us to live bold lives. Listen to hear the heartbeat of the universe.
“The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence.”
“Just because I didn’t do what you told me, doesn’t mean I wasn’t listening to you!”
Hank Ketcham, American cartoonist who created Dennis the Menace
We think that when people listen, they agree. When someone nods in understanding, we assume it means consensus. We may prefer harmony in our dialogues for it brings a sensation of well-being, but disagreements are the genesis of transformations.
Listening doesn’t mean you agree.
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
“One learns more from listening than speaking. And both the wind and the people who continue to live close to nature still have much to tell us which we cannot hear within university walls.”
When I was a teenager, I read the story of the Kon-Tiki expedition at one sitting, finishing in the early hours of the morning.
It has been over 60 years since a remarkable team of 6 explorers, led by the adventure-seeking Thor Heyerdahl set up to prove that is was possible for a primitive raft made from balsa wood and other native materials to safely sail the Pacific. Inspired by the legends and Inca raft drawings from the days of the Conquistadors, they set sail for 101 day covering, 4300 nautical mile (4,948 miles/7,964 kilometers). They successfully crossed the Pacific Ocean to the Tuamotu Islands.
Thor Heyerdahl listened to the accounts of history, the crafts-people who knew how to build rafts, his fellow adventurers and to the sounds of nature. Listening gave him another narrative to tell the world. And the world listened. The Kon-Tiki Expedition: By Raft Across the South Sea has been translated in 67 languages.
This week, the focus will be listening. Most agree that it is a skill that takes practice and patience. Most agree that there are rewards for nurturing the talent. Yet, it seems that we prefer to talk. There are more courses on developing speaking skills than there are on strengthening listening capacity. Bryant H McGill, editor of the world-renown McGill Reference Series, once said, “One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”
Respect is the basis for dialogue, conversations, and debates. There are many voices in this world that need to be heard. Who is listening?