Listening as a Civic Commitment

I love the questions this article poses: where, and how, do we teach the skill of listening–real, authentic, open listening? Do we teach the skill of listening, or even think of it as a skill?
The first time I really dug into the philosophy and practice of listening – and listening for the sake of transformation rather than information – was in a class in graduate school on Dialogue. At first I thought it was ironic that a class on Dialogue focused more on listening than talking, but then it became clear. Listening is the foundation of meaningful dialogue.
A few days before the 2016 election, on a panel about diversity and disagreement with Krista Tippett and Eboo Patel, Tippett suggested that political life requires not only advocates, but also listeners. Listening, she said, is not just about being quiet and waiting for your turn to speak. Listening is about being present and hearing the pain of another.
From promoting interfaith to producing radio, most of my life already boils down to listening. More recently, particularly in this political climate, I have embraced this role of “listener” as a civic commitment to hearing others in order to uncover and build upon common ground to work together. Not only is it simply needed and necessary, but it is life-giving and honoring – I have enlarged my sense of self, community, and society.
Listening is giving one’s presence, and hearing another’s perspective. It is a deeply human exchange that transforms the listener and communicator alike. It is the call of 2017 for us all to learn to be better listeners.
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