Most often we notice the importance of listening in its absence! I’ve learned a good deal about listening by neglecting to. Unfortunately that’s how I’ve learned its value. I’ve argued in my listening class for years that we do not value listening in American society! I would extend the claim to other parts of the world but I am most familiar with my native home. Typically I like to ask students to tell me why they agree or disagree (few have actually disagreed with my claim!). Why do you think listening isn’t valued in our country?
Here’s an always intriguing question about this that is too many times my experience: can you explain why when you really desire to do something that feels like your heart speaking — even insisting — and have natural intelligence equal to the task — gumption, intuition, even personal experience of previous success or failure (which is of course also learning), and you find a perfect opportunity — maybe it even feels like the ripe occasion given as a gift — the gift of a lifetime perhaps, and instead of executing what you want to and know to do, you inst3ead, fail to ‘getter done’ as the common vernacular would have it? You may want to listen and know it’s the thing to do — but it simply escapes you and into the place of that lack, (an absence, which at that point feels more like derelict neglect), flows the costly consequences and reversals of the near imperfect performance — I didn’t listen after all! In my case this is often because I have a point to make rather than taking time to let another make theirs until I better understand what they ‘have in mind.’ From these failures I’ve come to define listening as “the desire to be intentionally, intimately present to the meaning of another.” I hope you can see why I might fail at this from time to time. But dear Jesus why when I’d like it to be other-wise.