We did an exercise in class that involved listening and being listened to, both for 20 minutes each. Afterwards we heard of a previous class that did the same exercise but for 15 minutes each. During the debrief one of the students noted that that was the first time in his life where someone had sat and actively listened to him for 15 straight minutes.
Listening is a powerful gift that we can give to each other. It’s not a cheap gift either. It means we have to surrender our own wants, thoughts and needs for a period of time and make the other the most important thing within the range of our senses and in our own heads for that same period of time. That 15 minutes, once a week, could be enough to save a lot of troubled marriages.
And it still won’t happen.
Deep down we seem to fear listening. Maybe because we’re afraid of what we’ll hear. Maybe because we’re afraid we won’t hear anything. Maybe because after we listen someone might ask us to share.
Tonight my homework is to listen. My assignment is to listen to my own thoughts, the disparate aspects of my own personality, bring them all to the table together and work through an issue where I might feel stuck. Rather than denying that whiny voice, I'm supposed to listen to it. Instead of stuffing the angry voice, I'm supposed to hear it out. This could get interesting.
Below is a TED talk that came up during our 4 hours together this afternoon. It’s a little longer than the usual but definitely worth your 20 minutes. After you've watched it give this question some thought: what person in my life can I give the gift of 20 minutes of uninterrupted, active, empathetic listening to? Maybe it's your spouse, maybe a friend or a neighbor. Maybe it's your own soul.