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Listening is Loving

Last week I was stood up on my weekly radio show by Violet Blue,  a well-known sex educator and author.  This was the second time she no-showed, except this time there was no warning- just no guest right when the show was about to begin.  I switched gears quickly, although a bit awkwardly at the start.  It was the first time I have ever done a whole hour of talking to myself,  but I was surprised at  how fast the time flew by as I traveled through the elements that make love work.

Often through my life I have found that I learn best as I talk about something I am thinking or feeling. It is one of the reasons that I am so addicted to language, both spoken and written. Expression  for me is a key to understanding what is going on inside, yet ironically as I spoke about this topic on the show last week, what I learned was  the importance of listening.

Just days before  I’d had a few incidents as my house filled up again with all four of my kids back from the dorms or otherwise in transition. After several futile attempts to get them to hear something, I just stopped talking and listened. As I sat listening, I remembered a quote that I had recently read about how the feeling of being listened to is so close to the feeling of being loved that most people cannot tell them apart. Listening is the core of what communicating is about. And this from a woman who uses the skills of speaking to understand what I think.

The truth about listening is that you can’t really do it effectively when you are doing something else at the same time or even more importantly when you are invested in being heard or having something shift to your will. Usually at those times, our listening ability is continuously being interrupted by the mind’s formulation of a response. It is a little embarrassing that it has taken close to five decades to learn that listening must be the goal itself.

I have rarely listened in this way in my life, but find that every time I do something in me changes as much as or maybe even more than the person I am listening to.  What’s more is that this holds true even for the people who I have known for decades- people I have long assumed that I know what they will say, like my husband. The truth is that we often will be surprised by the people we are closest to when we dedicate ourselves to just listening to them.

I think I am finally able to understand and practice this new skill because I have had a glimpse of the power that comes from listening inside myself, but it is a little ironic that I discovered it in my first hour of non stop talk radio.