When Breathing is Listening

There’s a lot of noise in the world today. It’s easy to want to throw my voice in, to announce my support or disappointment. But I need to remember to stop and listen. This month’s theme at SheLoves Magazine is “Amplify” and I have the honor to be over there today, reflecting on how we amplify those around us by actively listening. Here’s an excerpt – I hope you’ll join the conversation over at SheLoves!

Annie-Rim-Breathing-is-Listening6A few years ago, I participated in a workshop about active listening. I assumed I was a good listener—I’m attentive, I look people in the eye, I nod along, acknowledging our shared experience. What I did not realize is that this is not, in fact, active listening.

Our guide paired us off and we sat facing each other, both feet planted on the floor, hands on knees, posture straight. We were instructed to look at our partner and listen to them respond to a prompt. While we listened, we could not make any facial expressions, nod our heads, or give affirmative hums. We had to simply listen. Listen without looking for connections, listen without acknowledging a shared experience, listen fully and openly.

What I learned during this exercise is that, while I thought I was fully engaged with others, I was actually looking to insert myself into their life. I was nodding along, showing that I agreed or empathized. In reality, I was making the listening about me, not about them. It was a counterintuitive experience, this practice of fully listening without response.

I don’t think there is anything wrong in looking for connection with others. By finding commonalities and shared experiences, we break down walls and barriers. Finding that link forges friendships and alliances that are important as we learn about others.

But it’s a balance. Especially when I’m listening to those who don’t have a platform or those who are sharing stories of oppression—stories in which I don’t have shared commonalities—I need to stop and actively listen. I need to stop nodding as though I understand and let their words wash over me. I need to ground my feet to this earth, place my hands on my knees, and give full attention to the experiences of my neighbors. Head over to SheLoves to read the rest!

What are ways you actively listen? Are you a doer or a thinker, when it comes to responding to events around you?


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Annie Rim

Welcome! I live in Colorado with my family and have taught in the classroom, at an art museum, and now in the playroom. I reflect about life, faith, and books here on my blog.

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