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Lately I’ve been noticing – and reading about – a lot of unfortunate trends in the ways that people speak to each other these days. It seems more like a contest than anything else and people are quick to pull a gun or call a lawyer to sue for defamation of character. On television, panel “discussions” devolve quickly into shouting matches or five people talking over each other in louder and louder voices to get their points across.

All of this reminded me of a moment at our book study session on Wednesday evening this past week. When Cheryl asked for comments on a section of the chapter we read, there was a protracted silence, long enough for me to feel the need to say something like: “Didn’t anything strike you? Anybody???” which elicited a rousing chorus of “We’re just thinking!…It’s so deep and meaningful…” I was immediately chastened and, at the same moment, grateful for the depth of sharing that was so common in this group.

Meg Wheatley has something to say on this topic. On a page from her book, turning to one another in answer to her own question, “When have I experienced good listening?” she writes the following:

One of the easiest human acts is also the most healing. Listening to someone. Simply listening. Not advising or coaching, but silently and fully listening…it has something to do with the fact that listening creates relationships. We know from science that nothing in the universe exists as an isolated or independent entity. Everything takes form from relationships, be it subatomic particles sharing energy or ecosystems sharing food. In the web of life, nothing lives alone. (p. 88-89)

I’ll try to remember that…