LISTEN, part II

Gurmukhi calligraphy in green and blue watercolor crayon

“Listen deeply, trust what you hear,” Guru Nanak invited over 500 years ago in his epic poem, Japji Sahib.

If communication has four basic aspects in our culture (listening, speaking, reading and writing), our current education system fails our society.* Education places heavy emphasis on reading, followed by writing. Students lucky enough to enroll in speech and debate or theater may get some experience speaking (at least publicly). But listening? Interpersonal conversation skills and in particular listening, are not taught (at least not in English!).

I chose to homeschool my children primarily for this reason. How can we consider peace on earth as a possibility if we can’t communicate? In my ideal world, the role of parenting and education is to raise children who grow up to participate as active, global citizens. Therefore, I sought to learn how to teach listening. I went the route of modeling. I spent their entire childhood engaged in a multi-year, daily listening exploration. I listened first. Then modeled, shared and probably occasionally lectured. I devoted our days to authenticity and clarity.

I pause now, satisfied to be on the other side where I celebrate success. I also recall how often I felt incredibly challenged. I see now how much I overcame (and still work daily to overcome) cultural and parental influences: deep, toxic subconscious programming.

As my children move into adulthood, I continue to learn how to listen. Active listening includes reflecting back to the other person, in order to clarify what’s being said. I’ve also learned, through other relationships, that ‘holding my tongue’ (especially when the other person spews harmful speech) serves nobody. Through active listening, I slowly learn ways to speak that enhance engagement.

May this Communication Toolkit contribute to the conversation, and may we distribute these tools amongst our communities. Listening is one tool. A tool that both amplifies other tools and is honed by the tools in this toolkit. Check out some of the tags below for other tools to explore! Please share any reflections that arise for you as you read this. You can comment directly on this post, and/or sign up for the Paradise Found, LLC mailing list here (there’s a place to submit a comment on the sign-up form, by signing up we’ll be able to be in email communication.) Thanks!

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Update 3/28/2023: In the past month or so I’ve been thinking about the fifth aspect of communication: nonverbal. That it’s taken me so long to consider it, when I’ve been a dedicated student of communication for decades, stretches my ‘compassion container.’ On the one hand, I’m looking forward to studying communication through lenses without words: communication in nature; communication through gestures, facial expression, body language; communication with beings who don’t use words or use words differently… communication from my own body. I welcome your thoughts on this, appropriate comments are invited below.