Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Learning to Listen

Sisters Clare Shadig and Ephrem Hollermann
I’m really not all that good at listening. I wish I were, but I know I am not. If a dear friend wants to share a story with me about losing her job I find myself making suggestions rather than letting her talk it out. That’s why I know I am not a good listener. 

Not being in another person’s position, how can I know what is better for him or her?  Who, better than the sharing person, can decipher what works for them? Basically, the tellers of the story are the ones who can come up with a response far better than the listener. 

A good listener lets people tell their story with all the blatant facts, desires, regrets or feelings they may have, and does not judge them for any of it. They encourage them to continue their story. If I shift the focus to my experience instead of keeping it on theirs I am interrupting their chain of thought. Refraining from small distracting movements such as checking who is going past the window and keeping an open mind for whatever is shared is also helpful to the speaker. 

Moments of silence are just fine; they give the speaker time to listen to his/her deepest thoughts. I once read that when someone shares with a good listener, they may learn information about themselves that they never knew they knew. Wow!

As for me, I can work on myself to become a better listener. Besides following the directives mentioned earlier, I can also encourage the person by keeping eye contact and by using simple gestures that show I am processing with him or her.

Careful listening affirms the speaker and encourages him/her to listen to what comes to them.  


Janet Thielges, OSB

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