By Erica Johnson
“We need to practice the art of listening, which is more than simply hearing. Listening, in communication, is an openness of heart which makes possible that closeness without which genuine spiritual encounter cannot occur.” –Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium
In a world obsessed with the idea of connectivity, it isn’t too hard to see that genuine, person-to-person connection is dwindling. Despite ever-improving, ever-quicker methods of talking to a person halfway across the world, we are seeing a decline in our ability to have a meaningful conversation with the person halfway across the living room.
There are endless books, programs and counseling sessions dedicated to improving the relationships we hold most dear, and a common thread connects them all: we must learn how to listen.
Cue the shouts of “But I do listen!”
Do we really?
We have heard it a hundred times, and Pope Francis also emphasizes it…hearing is not the same thing as listening.
I can hear information and let it go in one ear and out the other. I can even hear information and repeat it back to you perfectly. But listening is about so much more. Listening is about taking in not only information but also the person’s tone, their inflection, their body language, etc. It is not only about what they say, but also how and, ultimately, why.
As Pope Francis says, listening is “an openness of heart.” When we listen, truly listen, the person speaking becomes the main and only focus of our attention. In such a busy, loud world, this can be difficult, but just because something is hard is no excuse not to try.
Here are a few things you can do to set yourself up for success in the art of listening:
Whether you are meeting with someone to share your faith or just catching up with a friend, actively pursuing the art of listening can improve any conversation. It isn’t easy, but it is definitely worth the effort.
What is something you do to help you listen better?
What is something that makes you feel like you aren’t being listened to?
Do you have any good resources on learning how to listen better?
Tell us in the comments below!