On Listening

On Listening Blog Post Image.jpeg

One Saturday evening, months before the election, I got into a cab in New York City and almost immediately, the driver asked me—straight out— “who are you voting for?”  I told him.  Then I asked him, “who are you voting for?”  And thus, we began.  I was voting for Hillary Clinton and he was voting for Donald Trump.  It was a half-hour long ride and we had the most respectful conversation about the election.  I don't know if our conversation convinced him to change his vote.  I know he didn’t convince me.  Actually, we weren’t trying to convince each other; we were talking and listening.  When I arrived at my destination, we both thanked each other for such a respectful conversation in which we both really listened to each other and didn’t make each other feel wrong.  I know that I felt energized; I believe he did too.  I had learned something: another point of view.  I also felt really listened to.  That kind of conversation changes people.  It is transforming.  It connects rather than separates, we become a “we" rather than a "we vs. they."

We live in very challenging times.  We did before the United States’ presidential election, and now even more so.  One way to grow and heal a divided country, a divided family, or a divided self, is to develop strong muscles to respectfully heart-mind-body listen to people—especially to those who have a very different point of view.  We can also listen to ourselves: our inner conflicts, confusions and reactions.  Such listening to all points of view, all parts, and all sides heals great divides.

Listening can be learned.  We can increasingly learn to stand in a place where we listen to all.  We can use all of our tools: Mindfulness, Meditation, Prayer, Self-Talk, Breathing, Awareness.  So often we want to avoid, not feel, because it hurts too much, or causes too much anger.  We would rather react and rush into action.  Listen with respect and hold everything from love, from compassion without judgment.  In this spirit, one thing I decided to do after this election is to listen, read, and watch programs that have very different points of view from my own and the “liberal bubble.”  I want to deeply hear other points of view, like that of the cab driver, and know that listening like this is critical for healing great divides.

In the United States, Thanksgiving is soon upon us. Can we set some ground rules that we choose to follow with our family and/or friends?
* No yelling.
* No interrupting.

* No blaming or making someone feel wrong. 
* Listen with an open heart-mind-body, as best as you can.
* Speak and share from a place of respect.

IT WILL GET EASIER! When we begin listening this way, starting NOW and moving into Thanksgiving, it can become a time when we are muscle-building a very important shift in communication, conversation and relationship. The more we do this and spend heart-respectful time with each other and ourselves, the more WE will have the courage to meet each other AS OURSELVES.

 

"Perhaps things will get worse and then get better.  Perhaps there’s a small god up there in heaven readying herself for us.
Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.  Maybe many of us won’t be here to greet her, but on a quiet day,
if I listen very carefully,
I can hear her breathing."

—Arundhati Roy

 

I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to email me and share your point of view.