I like to feel heard. And understood. How about you? Yet finding people who really do that well and who have time to listen carefully can be a challenge. And then there is the trust.
The best listening and understanding is steeped in trust. And trust takes time.
I would say my closest friends and confidants are each people who listen well and who can convey to me what they have heard. Trust grows in those relationships.
When I teach students to listen, I have a favorite exercise that includes sitting in groups of three. One person speaks. One person listens. And one person observes the interaction. Each speaker has eight full minutes. I give guidance about the topic. After each round, everyone makes a few notes. Then everyone shifts roles.
This exercise produces not only insight about the skills of listening, but also it often evokes in the participants a powerful experience of being heard. That experience can be both shocking and a little unnerving. It can also be empowering.
We empower one another by hearing the other to speech. ~Nelle Morton
One of my favorite early feminist theologians, Nelle Morton, is best known for her idea of “hearing to speech.” She writes about the power of listening deeply and really hearing each other in her book, The Journey is Home.
Morton says, “Hearing of this sort is equivalent to empowerment. We empower one another by hearing the other to speech. We empower the disinherited, the outsider, as we are able to hear them name in their own way their own oppression and suffering. In turn, we are empowered as we can put ourselves in a position to be heard by the disinherited (in this case other women) to speaking our own feeling of being caught and trapped. Hearing in this sense can break through political and social structures and image a new system. A great ear at the heart of the universe – at the heart of our common life — hearing human beings to speech — to our own speech.” (Morton, The Journey is Home, 128)
This week’s episode of the Three Minute Ministry Mentor is about listening. The story comes from two women who went from being mentor and mentee to creating a “circle of sisterhood.” At the heart of that transition was the empowering experience of listening, asking good questions, and building trust.
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