Active listening. If you’ve been in any academic or corporate setting in the past couple decade, you’ve no doubt heard the term.
My friend wikipedia says active listening is …
“… an intent to “listening for meaning” in which the listener checks with the speaker to see that a statement has been correctly heard and understood. The goal of active listening is to improve mutual understanding. “
The first time I tried active listening was during a class exercise, during one of those nontechnical electives they forced us engineers to take. It was agony. I kept thinking. I can listen. God gave me two ears and one mouth. For goodness sake. I can listen, already! I don’t need to be taught to listen.
Yes, we hearing individuals (that is, those of us who are not legally deaf) can perceive sounds, but are you really listening. Part of the many many many class exercises involved using this phrase,
“So what you’re saying is …”
It felt so contrived, especially sitting in class, paired up with my ‘listening partner’ and hearing other listening partners say the same thing.
The truth of the matter is that over time, that question became part of my thinking. While listening to someone spout off about something or another, I’d read their body language and assess the situation dynamics around us (like we did in class) and ask myself, I wonder what he’s really saying?
When I was involved in leading/co-leading group and panel racial reconciliation discussions, those active listening skills came in handy. I’d put my own twist on that question every now and then and ask, “Am I hearing you right? You’re saying …?”
Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of blogs about the need for starting a dialogue on racial reconciliation. Whatever (or whomever) brought this issue into the public light is a moot point. I’m simply glad that the need is being raised.
But here’s what I want to know: Who, in the church, is answering that call to genuine talk about race in America. Who is ready for some listening for meaning? Because in this case, listening doesn’t just mean peace in the streets and understanding in the workplace.
It means John 17 oneness?