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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The ‘Why’ of Compassionate Listening


“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
—Stephen Covey
“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”
—Ernest Hemingway
Although our culture is much more at home in a talking role than in the listening role, the focus of this article is more about the reasons why we should listen. If we understand why we should listen perhaps we might listen more intently more often.
The difference we can make to one life when we listen is substantial.
People are so used to not being listened to, to being told, to being misunderstood, they never expect to be listened to. When we are genuinely interested in another person enough to listen to them we show them we love them.
Times When Listening Makes a Big Difference
We just never know when listening to someone will make a big difference. This is because most people walk around psychologically as closed books, especially when they are struggling.
How are we to create intimacy without listening?
In a world where care and concern seem scant we can rise above the selfish majority who just wish to be heard. When we sacrifice our words, silencing ourselves enough to open space for another, we show a character quality so rare.
To listen is to love.
Most people are deprived of an ear devoted to them. And there are always a percentage of us that find ourselves so desperate to be heard we sink into depression. It’s like there is a conditioning that occurs that is damaging to the soul because it is, over and again, not heard. When we see our world as uncaring we lose hope.
If we could imagine everybody that we come across as perhaps susceptible to depressive thoughts and periods we might have compassion enough to listen.
If we can imagine others as needy to be heard as we are it helps us make the sacrifice.
Making the Covenant to Listen
We won’t become better listeners unless we make a covenant to God to improve in this area. Unless we make a covenant to listen more intently we are unlikely to make the transition.
We should ask God for an extra portion of compassion and for opportunities to simply listen, and for divine reminders in the moment of our listening to listen for the right reasons.
We want to get inside this other person’s mind and soul and feel as they feel.
There is, of course, a great reciprocal blessing available to the listener. God alone is the one providing that blessing. To listen intently is an act of faith. Faith pleases God and our listening is repaid in ways we can’t grasp now.
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Kindness comes in the willingness for one person to listen intently to another. Compassion finds its legs when we listen attentively to another’s needs.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

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