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Love is Listening
Photo: Stephen Coburn
“I write because…I need to express my thoughts. It seems no one listens when I speak.”

I learned amazing things about people in my Adult Education Writing classes when I issued their first assignment: “I write because….” Strangers shared truths with strangers that they couldn’t share at home.

My student’s feeling about no one listening, really listening, is a common one. Meaningful communication between spouses, between parents and children, between siblings is rare, even in our age of blogging, texting and twittering.

“Listen to all the conversations of our world,” wrote noted psychiatrist, Paul Tournier, “those between nations as well as those between couples. They are for the most part dialogues of the deaf.”1

He goes on to say that “No one can find a full life without feeling understood at least by one person.” Only by listening attentively and non-judgmentally can we come to understand and appreciate the other person. The most important place for this listening is in the family. Unfortunately, home is where many a spouse or child feels most lonely.

The good news is that with awareness, patience and practice, this situation can begin to improve immediately. It doesn’t happen overnight but just the fact that people care will help bring it about.

Here are some suggestions:
  • Don’t show impatience when a person’s need to talk impinges on your present task or activity. If you cannot break away at that moment, acknowledge the request by saying, “I want to listen. Can you wait until I finish …? Then we can find a quiet place.” Make it as soon as possible.
  • Don’t presume to know what the person wants to say or try to hurry the process. The more personal the topic, the more difficult for some people to express it.
  • Remember, the speaker may not want your opinion or solution. They may just want to unload a burden on their mind.
  • Listen actively. Maintain eye contact. Ask relevant questions. Avoid hasty answers. Don’t be judgmental. Don’t interrupt with your own thoughts or stories.
  • Be a “safe” listener. Keep a confidence unless the speaker or someone else is in danger. Let the person speaking know that you respect the confidence and you will stand beside them but you must alert authorities of any threats to the person’s self or to others.
  • Keep the doors of communication open no matter how often someone slams a door on you.
  • Courtesy and respect are essential.
  • Recognize when professional help is needed.
If you are the one neglected or unappreciated, do as my student did—turn your negative feelings into positive actions. Your thoughts and feelings matter. Gather your courage. Assert yourself in loving, non-judgmental language. Listen, and expect to be listened to. And remember, God is always listening.2

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Lois Pecce. Copyright © 2009 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

1 To Understand Each Other, Paul Tournier, John Knox Press, Atlanta, GA 1962, 1967
2 1 Peter 5:7

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