Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Deep listening involves compassion

Listening, really listening, to someone else seems to be a lost art, doesn't it? So often, we hear what we think the other will say rather than what that person actually does say. Or we don't really hear at all because we're busy formulating our response. Or perhaps we're thinking about the next five things on our to-do list.

Buddhist monk and Vietnam refugee Thich Nhat Hanh in his book Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames says this: "Deep listening, compassionate listening is not listening with the purpose of analyzing or even uncovering what has happened in the past. You listen first of all in order to give the other person relief, a chance to speak out, to feel that someone finally understands him or her. Deep listening is the kind of listening that helps us to keep compassion alive while the other speaks, which may be for half an hour or forty-five minutes."

Most conversations don't involve the other speaking for that long. But still, we listen not to analyze. We listen to understand someone. We listen to keep compassion alive. That's a very different view of listening, isn't it?

We'll discuss this more in upcoming blogs. And I'd love to hear your views on listening, too. I suspect many of our conflicts could be avoided or at least settled if we could listen better—if we could keep compassion alive.