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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the power of listening. About what it means to be listened to – particularly when we are going through changes. About what it means to be a good listener, too.

Stop for a moment and consider who has been a good listener in your life? 

How did they support you with their listening? What were the qualities of their listening that had an impact on you? Take a moment to name and honor them. 

I’ve come to learn that listening well is a gift of hospitality we give one another. My mother was a good listener to young people. Her kitchen table was a place where listening happened every day. 

She had an after-school group of young people, mostly boys, who came and worked in her barn. They showed up after school and swarmed into her kitchen. They helped themselves to the snacks she had available in her pantry – pretzels, potato chips, sodas, apples, and mini-candy bars. She called this ever-changing group her “barn boys.” Over the years, barn boys came and went, but they knew that her door was always open. 

At that table, she offered a special hospitality of listening. 

She heard stories of their challenges, mistakes, and unruly antics. I think they felt they could tell her anything – even the big mistakes they made were going to be heard without judgment. She created a safe space for attention, presence, and witness without the attachment of problem-solving. Mostly I think she just held what they spoke of so lightly that the speaker could work it out for himself. 

Each teenager eventually made his way to yardwork, shoveling manure, driving a manure spreader, or whatever other chore she had in mind. They might be shoveling snow, raking leaves, or planting her flower beds. Whatever the task, they took it on with as much care as she had used listening to them. 

When my mom died, I came to know more about how much her listening meant. People stepped up to the microphone to tell stories about her – most included the ways she listened to them. One barn boy said of her kitchen table listening – 

“When she listened, you just felt better.” 

Now, in a world that is listening challenged, I think we could all benefit from this kind of listening to one another. What if our listening became a practice of attention, being fully present, and hospitality, that enabled us to be heard and have the generous space to figure out what needs to be figured out on our own? 

We are not responsible for problem-solving someone else’s challenges. We can choose to come alongside and listen in a way that honors and respects the speaker without trying to fix whatever is wrong. We can choose to give grace. We can open spaces that allow for healing through witnessing and listening, wonder, curiosity, and nurture. 

Consider again who listens well in your life. Now, pass it on. 

If this resonates with you, let’s chat!​

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