The Power of Listening

Photo of a Bronze Listen To To Listen Sculpture

Have you heard any good stories lately?

Telling stories is how we spread information, teach, build community, offer compassion and build rapport.

But listening to stories is how we honor others, offer healing, build relationships, affirm dignity and learn from each other.

“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” –Bryant H. McGill*

Being listened to is the gift we might have requested for Christmas—if we thought we could get it. When another human takes time to give you the gift of their open presence and acceptance, you find yourself sharing ideas and feelings you might not have known you had.

“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.” –Brenda Uehland, quoted by Carl Menninger*

Listening to someone is powerful. Being listened to makes you smarter and feel less isolated. We live in a world of constant sound, yet feel like we are not being heard.  Research shows that isolation is a health risk for our senior population.**

I suspect it is also true for our children who often feel silenced or ignored.  We move so quickly through our days with phones attached to our hands and our eyes focused down instead of into the eyes of our children, spouses, colleagues and friends.

When was the last time you sat, contentedly listening, looking into the eyes of a child, friend or family member? Not waiting your turn to speak. Not imaging how you will reply. Simply delightedly listening?

We are listening to testimonies each Sunday. We have all learned new things about people we already knew and have learned new things about people we didn’t know yet. Don’t you feel like you somehow know them now? They shared their faith and journey and we listened. We are changed.

“Listening is being able to be changed by the other person.” –Alan Alda*

Let’s continue to grow as listeners and tellers, sharing our lives and gifting each other with willing ears.

  • Dinner for 8—meet new friends or catch up with old friends by sharing a meal and listening around a table to each other’s stories.
  • Storytelling Concert—3rd Friday of every month. Hear a professional storyteller. Enter a new world, experience a new culture through their stories. Then be bold enough to tell a story of your own. (It’s a judge free zone! Everyone is welcome.)
  • Testimonies on Sunday—share a 1-2 min. story of your faith journey at FCC or of an experience that drew you closer to God. Shirlee Fassell will sign you up.

“The art of conversation lies in listening.” –Malcom Forbes*

Listening As An Act Of Transformation

Retelling of a Hasidic tale by Doug Lipman (Apr 02, 2018)

Two villagers came to a rabbi with a dispute. When the rabbi invited them to sit down and talk about it, they glowered at each other as though to say, “If you sit down at this table, then I won’t!” At last, they sat at the rabbi’s table with arms folded, casting angry glances at each other.

Then the rabbi said, “Do you have anything more to say, Shlomo?” Yes, Shlomo asserted, he had more to say. The rabbi kept listening to Shlomo’s answers and asking him questions about them until at last Shlomo said, more calmly, “No. I have nothing more to say.”

Next, the rabbi turned toward the other villager, Moshe, and asked, “What happened?” The rabbi listened to him and asked him questions until he, too, said, “I have nothing more to say.”

The rabbi rose from the table to leave the room, saying, “I will deliberate on this and come back with a decision.”

Less than a minute later, the rabbi returned, sat back down at the table, and said, “I have reached my verdict.” The rabbi described the verdict to them. Shlomo and Moshe looked at each other and each said, “All right. That solves it.” They shook hands and left.

Another man had been in the room and had watched all this. He said to the rabbi, “You found the solution in just a minute. Why did you let them talk so long, when you knew the answer right away?”

The rabbi said, “If I had not listened to each one’s full story, each would have resented my decision. It wasn’t my judgment that solved the problem. What solved it was listening to their entire stories.”

Rev. Pam


*Dave Kerpen. Inc. JAN. 9, 2014.

**ERIN YORK CORNWELL and LINDA J. WAITE Author manuscript; available in PMC 2009 Oct 5. Published in final edited form as: J Health Soc Behav. 2009 Mar; 50(1): 31–48. doi: 10.1177/002214650905000103.