Listening

Yesterday I read an essay on listening by Brenda Ueland, a writer whose book, If You Want to Write, inspired and instructed Edna Staebler, lately one of my writing heroes. I loved and learned from Brenda’s beautifully written essay on listening. Still, I will reread it today, and perhaps many times in the future, to absorb it well enough that I can practice what she describes so brilliantly; to listen intentionally and well.

I remember from my first quick reading that she learned to really listen in a way that draws something of the speaker out. But, of course, this doesn’t happen automatically, only in the presence of a skilled listener. It saddens me that we miss this—that I have missed this—when each person we encounter has a bright soul and spirit locked up inside unless drawn out into the light to be revealed and honoured.

Brenda Ueland writes of how she used to prepare for social occasions by thinking she had to be “on,” She meant by that to be bright and animated—artificially so—and sometimes aided by cocktails. Somehow she changed course and instead learned that quieting herself was better. She practiced the art of drawing out another person and resisting the terrible urge we often have to interrupt, resist, or oppose the ideas of others. The title of her essay is, Tell Me More: On the Fine Art of Listening.

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