Constructive Living: Listening

The following is a quotation from Constructive Living Reflections on St. Augustine’s Homilies by David K. Reynolds:

“Let’s talk about talking. Each of us speaks a private language, some of which is shared with others. Aim to hear the nuances of each other’s private speech. Do your best to translate your speech so that it is understandable to others. Have something worthwhile to say. Thoughtless speech steals others’ time and ears, causing them temporary thoughtlessness.”

I think the worthiness of this quotation lies in its attention to opening your ears to truly listen to what other people say and responding in a meaningful way.

I was watching a popular news TV talk show yesterday evening and became aware of the fact that the host, while asserting his thoughts to his guest, did a poor job of actually listening to what the guest had to say. After first catching this, I paid attention to how the host listened and responded and was surprised to find that the host continually cut off the guest in order to throw in his strong stance on the matter. Now, regardless of what “side” I agree with, I do think that listening is critical in such discussions and the host (whose show I usually like watching) would have benefited greatly by simply slowing down and listening. He was so intent on delivering his own thoughts, that he appeared to not truly listen to his guest at all. He did this very subtly, though, and not in an outright rude manner. Of course, at the end of the day, it is his show and he has the last word, but by doing so, that is, by not listening, he drowned out the thoughts of his guest and failed to progress the conversation beyond the same old “popular culture” opinion. That is, he kept things safely within the opinions of his viewership.

True listening is difficult and asks of us to lend our ears to the other.

To truly lend your ears to another person is a vulnerable and dangerous thing. You two might end up dramatically changing each other in a way that you were not prepared for.

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