on shutting up and listening.

I’m taking a class on oral history this semester, and one of the first things we learned as a matter of audio quality on recordings is that in conversations we do things like go “mmm” or “yeah” or “huh” all the time when other people are talking. This tends to sounds really, really dumb on recordings, but it also makes you realize–we are not good at silence. Or at least I’m not. I don’t know about you.

So ever since that class I’ve been really self-conscious about how much I’ll interrupt people even with an “mmm”, because now I’m more aware of how much I suck as a listener. Even if I’m quiet on the outside, it’s hard to get the voice in my head to shut up and give my full attention to the other person.

The Christian tradition tells us that listening is a gift received and given–“faith comes by hearing”, Paul says. When we quiet ourselves long enough to really listen, it has the power to change us. So it is with God, which is why our fathers and mothers in the faith took out the time to meditate on His words and still themselves so they could hear Him. And so it is with other people–when we listen to someone else, we are giving them the freedom to open up part of their lives to us. Everyone has a story that needs to be told; everyone has a voice to be heard. “One generation will tell of His works to another…”

So, be slow to speak. Be quick to listen. Shut up for a minute. Maybe you’ll hear something you never heard before.

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One thought on “on shutting up and listening.

  1. I don’t know, I think a lot of times people do that to try to show that they’re listening and paying attention when someone is telling a long story. You know, like making a sympathetic sound during a sad part. I actually read in my linguistics text that women do this more than men because they are trying to show solidarity or something in conversations.

    But it’s true that people also do that when they’re distracted and trying to make the person hurry up, and that’s rude!

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