The Challenge of Listening

A friend asked if she could listen.

Have you ever been asked that or had someone who wanted simply to listen?

She’s doing it as part of her education. So, to help her, I agreed to have her come to my home and listen to me for half an hour. I wondered beforehand what I would talk about. Even though I find it very easy to talk to anyone, about anything, it’s completely different when you realize the person across from the table is simply going to listen.


Ah, the freedom. I said things I completely did not expect to, and heard words that I, personally, need to listen to.

She’s going to be very good at her job.

All this made me think about the act of listening.

First, how many of us truly listen, as opposed to simply hearing?


How many of us hear, but rather than accepting what we hear, feel the need to interject, to insert our own stories, to fix, to cheer up, to change minds?

Read over that list again because embedded in that question are the things most of us do when listening. Rather than just letting the other person be, we have to insert ourselves into the conversation in so many ways. And most of those come from caring.


We want to ease another’s pain. We want to help. We want to make everything okay. We want to share our own experiences to show, by story, that we understand. Or that the person isn’t alone.

For example, I’ve learned over the years to tell my husband ahead of time when I’ve had a bad day and want to talk, but don’t need him to fix anything. I just need him to listen. When I’m hurting emotionally or physically and he can’t fix everything for me, he gets a bit grumpy. I actually love having that knight in shining armor there for me.


But sometimes we just need someone to listen.

Think about what that would feel like, to be given the opportunity I just had, that freedom to be in the presence of someone who simply listens.

Think about this the next time someone wants to talk to you. Pay attention to your body language and eye contact. Do you fidget? Look out the window? Or are you immersed in the moment of that other person’s story? This is something else my friend is very good at. Nothing existed outside the two of us, one talking, one listening.


Think about how often you speak and what you say. Do you interrupt? Do you try to make them see reason, or change their mind, or give them advice?

I challenge you, the next time someone wants to talk to you, to simply be there for them. Don’t insert yourself into their story. Wait until they give you a sign they want a response. After they are done, or even before they start, ask them what they need. Are they looking for help or do they simply need someone to listen? It’s harder than you might think.


Then there’s the fine art of NOT listening…

I also challenge you to listen to more than their words. So many things we need to say are buried deep and only peek out in unguarded moments or in the unexpected tears we shed or in the way we move through our lives.

And I challenge you to listen to yourself. That might be the hardest challenge of all.

Mother Earth by Kariliene is one of my favorite songs at the moment. You can find it on YouTube. It talks about other ways to listen.

Listen to the animals

Listen to the trees

Listen to the spirits of the earth

Begging us please

Stop listening to greed…