Print Friendly, PDF & Email

I, along with many readers of Vincentian Mindwalk, have been struggling with what seems like unprecedented polarization in our world, our society, our church, and, maybe especially, our personal relationships.  Some can’t even agree on facts even observing the same event.

It is obvious that people are not hearing each other… Or are they not listening more than not hearing?

Hearing is simply the act of perceiving sound by the ear. Listening, however, is something you consciously choose to do. Listening requires concentration so that your brain processes meaning from words and sentences. Listening leads to learning.

Polarization suggests that more people tend to be “hard of listening” rather than “hard of hearing.”

More insights from Pope Francis

An Italian media expert Chiara Giaccardi said there’s a small “Copernican revolution” in Pope Francis’ 2014 message, Communication at the Service of an Authentic Culture of Encounter.

He notes Pope Francis speaks of defining communication not as “the transmission of content” but rather “the reduction of distance.” Good communication helps us to grow closer, to know one another better, and ultimately, to grow in unity. This is so much more than “the transmission of information from a sender to a receiver”

The words of Pope Francis…

  • To dialogue means to believe that the “other” has something worthwhile to say, and to entertain his or her point of view and perspective. 
  • Engaging in dialogue does not mean renouncing our own ideas and traditions, but the claim that they alone are valid or absolute.”
  • The walls which divide us can be broken down only if we are prepared to listen and learn from one another.  We need to resolve our differences through forms of dialogue which help us grow in understanding and mutual respect. 
  • A culture of encounter demands that we be ready not only to give, but also to receive.
  • We need, for example, to recover a certain sense of deliberateness and calm.  This calls for time and the ability to be silent and to listen.  We need also to be patient if we want to understand those who are different from us. 
  • People only express themselves fully when they are not merely tolerated but know that they are truly accepted.  If we are genuinely attentive in listening to others, we will learn to look at the world with different eyes and come to appreciate the richness of human experience as manifested in different cultures and traditions. 

What a difference this would make in all forms of discourse – political and personal.

It would certainly replace the “defensive listening” whereby we listen for the flaws in another person’s point of view instead of recognizing that the other may see something we don’t see.

Moving beyond merely hearing in 8 seconds

One of the simplest ways of moving beyond hearing to listening has been described as the “8 second rule.”

Research shows that when the average person asks a question they only wait 2-3 seconds for the person to answer.  Responding quicky to another person can often be a sign of defensive listening or being “hard of listening”

“Slow listening” allows us to see a world we don’t know, to understand experiences we haven’t had, to reframe or drop a belief long held. It creates distinctions, and it is from these distinctions that we create new possibilities.

What if we took time to really listen and process before responding.

As I look back at some heated “dialogs” I have been in I realized they were more “debates” I was trying win.

Check yourself

Are you a slow listener or a fast talker?

Click below for an audio version of this Vincentian Mindwalk

%d bloggers like this: