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The Arts of Spiritual Conversations: Listening

August 2, 2015
  • Photo by Emily Faley

    Photo by Emily Faley

    Question: What are the body parts you use most when you are listening to another person speak? Answer: Your eyes!

  • Spoken words are everywhere. And words we have not asked for are often seen as a nuisance. The telemarketer, a class mate with a not-so-interesting story, a co-worker babbling about a project he is excited about, the lady in line at the check-out counter. Blah, blah, blah. Don’t talk to me! I don’t want to listen to you! I want to listen to my own thoughts and not be interrupted by your nonsense!
  • Of course we know it is impolite to say that, so we pretend to pay attention. But our eyes wander or glaze over, and we either hear but don’t listen, or we hear but are more concerned about our response than about their story.
  • In the first case, we pretend to be engaged in the conversation, but we really don’t hear a word they’re saying. When they finally ask a question, we have no idea what the topic was and we hope that the answer is “Yes” because that what’s we’re about to say.  This is a “non-versation.”
  • In the second case we are so busy formulating our answer (and prove to the other that we are better/bigger/smarter/etc. than they are) that 99% of the conversation is really a “counter-versation”.
  • The word “con” in conversation means “with”. But in most cases it is “against” or even “without”, and we engage in a two-way monologue instead of a meaningful conversation. The word “versation” in conversation means “the act or action of turning something over”. A conversation therefore is “to turn something over together.”
  • The Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi says “Lord, grant that I may seek rather to understand, than to be understood. THAT is the art of listening, and requires us to tune into the other as much as possible with as many senses as we have at our disposal given the situation we are in.
One Comment leave one →
  1. Carole Shaw permalink
    August 3, 2015 8:56 AM

    What a gift you are given when someone really listens! If you have ever been blessed with a friend who is a good listener, you know that it is a gift that you should try to pass on. Stop and pay attention to life from someone else’s perspective and understand their point of view. God does that, and because he does … he totally “gets” us.

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