Listen with your Heart!
I wrote this guest blog post for Kimberly Mays of Illume Parenting, but it's relevant whether you've got littles ones or not.
"If I dare to hear you,
I will feel you like the sun
and grow in your direction."
There has never been a more important time to dare to hear each other - to be audaciously bold in our willingness to listen to one another, and to allow ourselves to grow as a result.
We live in divisive times. A recent survey for the BBC of more than 19,400 people in 27 countries found that 76 percent of those polled feel their society is divided. Here in the United States, one only has to browse social media comments and news headlines to understand the depth of anger, misunderstanding, and finger-pointing that is becoming so common in our public discourse.
As the managing director of the Compassionate Listening Project, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering individuals and communities to transform conflict and strengthen cultures of peace, I’m intimately familiar with the barriers to listening and connection. A large part of my work involves teaching people how to listen deeply, to set aside judgments to really hear each other, and to humanize those they disagree with. I believe it is a critical time for these skills. But it’s not easy.
When I facilitate workshops teaching these skills, one of the common concerns for people is, “What if addressing this hurts the relationship?”, “What if I’m not able to move through it?”, “What if it all gets messed up?” Those are valid concerns, and unfortunately most of us aren’t taught how to deal with conflict in a healthy way. I for one come from a family of conflict avoiders. (Ironic, given the field I now call my profession, eh?) At Compassionate Listening we teach people that conflict is an opportunity for intimacy, and intimacy is sometimes messy. Situations and relationships will not always be wrapped up in a nice little box with a pretty little bow on top. But there is always an opportunity for growth, for setting aside our own judgements long enough to really hear where the other person is coming from, and then, even if we disagree, to honor that person and their experience.
It takes practice. It takes courage. And it takes heart. (Literally. Science and the field of neurocardiology is starting to affirm what the wisdom traditions have known for ages… that the heart is a vast resource of wisdom).
I truly believe the place to start honing these heart-based skills is in our own homes, with our families, and those closest to us. If we can create an environment of understanding, respect, and compassion with our children, that gives me a lot of hope for our future. May we all remember to put the opportunity for connection and intimacy above judgement and righteousness, and may we remember we have that power wherever we go.
For brilliant support in doing so with your children, check out www.illumeparenting.com