As a pastor and counsellor I have found what is indispensable is also non-negotiable; that in listening we have to denounce the intrusive self.
The intrusive self is not too far away; such as the enemy it prowls like a lion.
Our ego and agenda would be painted all over the billboard which is our life when we had anything to do with it. Even as listeners we can be praised as listeners, and some have honed their skills so well that they live off such praise – oh yes, I’ve caught myself in this practice several times. It’s a drug. However, like all drugs it masks authenticity, and it robs interactions of what they could be.
Our listening must be more.
The hardest thing about listening is having to consciously place my agenda, ego, opinion and urges to one side. I think I have so much to offer the conversation. It offers something else. People don’t ever come to me to be told what to do, even if they think they do.
The hardest thing about listening is knowing that by listening properly we might have no impact, or worse, another person may think we gave them less than nothing and took from them instead. Indeed, we should look to have no impact, then be amazed within ourselves when we do. Having listened, we need to be comfortable that we didn’t meet their requirements, even if we’ve got. When we do so we may be surprised how much more concentrated and effective we are for another person… is not that our aim?
The hardest thing about listening is realising that
Our aid helps most when it seems to help least.
Really what I am saying is, ‘I offer you my wholehearted mindfulness.’
The practice of listening really isn’t about us at all. If it has anything about us inside, our authenticity is taxed, and the person listened to has been robbed of the sort of attention we might have given them.
Listening involves a mixture of unnaturally letting go of my stuff and rigorous self-discipline to focus on the other person.
And still, listening is in being so cautious that, if there is anything we share, it’s short and for their benefit.