by Thomas Porter
Why is listening so important? Listening speaks one of our deepest needs: to be understood or to feel understood. Yes, we might like people to agree with us, take our side, but it is a great gift when we feel that the person understands us, even if the person does not agree with us. It shows the person cares. It develops trust. It connects us.
Listening acknowledges and honors the other’s uniqueness with his or her own stories and truths. We each need to tell our story, and we each need to hear the other’s story. Being listened to provides the opening we need to tell our stories, to express feelings and ideas we would otherwise be afraid to voice. In many ways the greatest gift of listening is that it enables us to go deeper into our own stories. Often I don't know what I think until I hear what I say. ... Listening which includes asking questions, can lead the other person to greater understanding and clarity about themselves.
Listening is important to the person speaking, but it is also important to the listener. . . . Listening creates the possibility of learning and being changed, enriching our lives. If we do not listen, our creativity, flexibility, and ability to grow and learn is diminished, our universe is diminished. Through listening, we can understand how we have harmed another, and also how we can make things right. Hearing has consequences, and these consequences can be redemptive.
Believing that we experience God in the flesh, incarnate in life, we can acknowledge that God speaks to us through the other. We, therefore, need to listen for God’s voice in the other, who is created in the image of God.
Adapted from The Spirit and Art of Conflict Transformation by Thomas Porter. Copyright © 2010 by the author. Used with permission of Upper Room Books.
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