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The Grace of Listening

The Grace of Listening



Everyone has seen the meme with two friends sitting on a swing, saying absolutely nothing to each other. Sometimes it is depicted by Snoopy and Charlie Brown, other times by Winnie the Pooh and Piglet. To me, this image personifies mutual listening between friends. Wait a minute! How can two people be listening when neither one is speaking? That’s just it. Intentional listening means receiving the grace of silence as an opportunity to be empathetic, to pick up on the body language of another person, to simply be in a moment of time. To be a good listener, one must learn how to be silent.


Intentional listening means receiving the grace of silence as an opportunity to be empathetic, to pick up on the body language of another person, to simply be in a moment of time.

I was raised as a military brat. This meant being moved around to different places and different cultures every few years. Military families can affect a military member’s rank and image by their actions, so we were raised from an early age to be without prejudice. Cultural diversity is nothing new to a military brat. It is often said that if you have two military brats in a crowded room of people, they can easily find one another. It’s because we are chameleons. We quickly adapt to our environment and we are openly friendly to strangers. We genuinely want to know and learn about other people. We ask questions, which is key to being a good listener.


Eye contact and focus are also important listening skills. Our smartphones function as computers, cameras, media devices, alarm clocks, calendars, calculators, etc. My father would often take the family out to dinner on holidays. He would always say, “First one on their cell phone pays the bill.” Now, when I am out to dinner or at an event with a friend or family and trying to have “us” time, it’s important to me to put away my phone since I have carved out that particular time specifically for that relationship. I went to a family dinner a couple of years ago after an event and I was appalled when one group of the family turned to their cell phones rather than holding conversations with family members they hadn’t seen in a while. The disconnect was obvious and it made me sad because the rest of the family was being quite intentional with catching up with one another - and those on their phones were missing out! It’s important to make the extra effort to focus on conversations in our modern society, especially the difficult ones.


It’s important to make the extra effort to focus on conversations in our modern society, especially the difficult ones.

I sometimes find myself at odds with hot topics with my friends. The internet has unleashed the best and the worst of people, and everyone has forgotten the old saying of “never discuss religion or politics with those who hold opinions opposite to yours” from 1840. In the last presidential election, a lot of lines were drawn that affected friendships. I struggled with some personally, not because of their actual opinions, but because of the way they projected insults on my other friends whose opinions differed from theirs. I had one friend I had to let go because she would go on rampant tirades, hurling nasty language at anyone who had a differing viewpoint. She reacted with emotional outrage, and that interfered with her ability to listen to anyone. At the end of the day, we all want to be heard, but that is not possible if everyone is talking and no one is listening.


At the end of the day, we all want to be heard, but that is not possible if everyone is talking and no one is listening.

Conflicting views do not always have to start heated arguments. I have another friend who messages me regularly to let me know she is praying for me. For a religious person, this wouldn’t seem odd, but I am an atheist. I know that she knows I don’t believe in prayer. I do, however, believe in the power of positive thoughts which, if you take the deity out of the picture, is basically the same thing. I always thank her for thinking of me; I know she is doing it from a good place in her heart. She has always been available and open to any religious questions I have. Even though religion is an important part of who she is and she and I will never be in the same place with religious doctrine, we choose to accept each other. We have a lovely friendship despite our differences. We hear each other and, in turn, feel heard.


Even though religion is an important part of who she is and she and I will never be in the same place with religious doctrine, we choose to accept each other. We have a lovely friendship despite our differences. We hear each other and, in turn, feel heard.

“Do you want to vent or do you want advice?” is a question I see more and more. It is crucial to have good listening skills for a friendship to flourish. If you see that your friend is struggling, are you able to tell whether they just need a sounding board? Or are they truly lost in the depths of a situation, in need of a helping hand? ? Sometimes it’s easy to differentiate, but it never hurts to ask if you are unsure. Life is hard, and sometimes your friends will come to you with things that are not in your comfort zone. You don’t have to see eye-to-eye on every single topic in order to be a good friend. When you learn how to respectfully “agree to disagree” on those hot-button issues, you will find your friendships grow even stronger. You have the reassurance that you can support each other, regardless of your personal beliefs or opinions. Being a good friend walks hand in hand with being a good listener. The two cannot be separated.


You don’t have to see eye-to-eye on every single topic in order to be a good friend.
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