Learning to listen
In our wider church community, we have dedicated February to listening. What a grand idea, we really have no idea how to listen. At least not in a way that people really feel heard.
I was teaching a couple the Imago Dialogue technique in counselling the other day, and one of them asked me; 'why do we do it this way, it seems so unnatural and awkward.'
It is sad that truly listening feels unnatural and awkward, but we nearly all feel that way and it is why we tend to find ourselves in conflict so frequently.
For many people, the dialogue is the place where they feel heard for the first time, in a very long time. It is a very powerful feeling where people feel valued and understood. It is from this base that we can begin to resolve conflict and move to a more mature and sustainable way of relating.
We don't naturally listen. Our natural way of communication is to talk about our own needs, we often interrupt, finish people's sentences and when the other person is talking, we are only half listening; often we are thinking of what we can say in response. That is why we get caught up in defensive circular arguments, repetitive conversations that are never satisfactorily resolved, because we never really 'got it' in the first place. We did not listen to understand. We listened only in order to be 'right'.