Our listening creates a sanctuary for the homeless parts within the other person.
Rachel Naomi Remen
Think about how you feel when you know you have been heard. Listening offers a deep sense of being seen. The healing power of listening is immense. When I am heard I don’t have to try and prove my point. Nor do I have to prove the other wrong. Listening uses many practices: attention, being present, openness. Quaker writer Douglas Steere says, “Holy listening–to ‘listen’ another’s soul into life, may be almost the greatest service that any human being ever performs for another.”
Deep listening is being willing to hear a different point of view and try to understand where that person is coming from. Listening does not mean you agree with what the person says, listening is telling that person you want to hear his/her point of view. It is not about changing their mind, it is about developing understanding. It is probably one of the hardest things to do–to listen without judging or trying to argue. Listening is a necessary ingredient if we are to begin to find common ground and rebuild our country on its founding principles. People calling on us with louder and louder voices are asking us to listen. Today there are a lot of loud voices and very little listening.
The Compassionate Listening Project is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering individuals and communities to transform conflict and strengthen cultures of peace. Their sole tool is deep listening to another’s story. Once a year they take a group of people to the Middle East to be a part of bringing Isralis and Palestinians together to hear each others stories. As the two groups sit in circle together and listen to each other, a shift takes place. By the end of the two days there are tears and hugs and a commitment to return to their homes and begin to bring people together. Has this stopped the conflict in this area, no. It has begun to build bridges of understanding, one person at a time, that ripples through each community.
May we all take time to deeply listen to those in our lives, and to those with a different point of view. As hard as it is sometimes, I believe listening can help build bridges of understanding and not walls.