Listening Develops Empathy

I mentioned that “empathy” and the need to develop it is the hot competency being discussed these days.

Continuing the theme, I ran across a post on the internet today where an author named Paul Goodman wrote about “silence”. He said there are nine types. Here’s a paragraph describing the types:

“Not speaking and speaking are both human ways of being in the world, and there are kinds and grades of each. There is the dumb silence of slumber or apathy; the sober silence that goes with a solemn animal face; the fertile silence of awareness, pasturing the soul, whence emerge new thoughts; the alive silence of alert perception, ready to say, “This… this…”; the musical silence that accompanies absorbed activity; the silence of listening to another speak, catching the drift and helping him be clear; the noisy silence of resentment and self-recrimination, loud and subvocal speech but sullen to say it; baffled silence; the silence of peaceful accord with other persons or communion with the cosmos.”

Big words and deep thoughts here but they are worth considering.

Silence begins with “not talking”. Many of us prefer verbal expression to listening. Some might suggest I’m one of those.

But, Goodman helps me to appreciate the virtue and the benefit of quieting my voice and paying attention.

We develop our empathy when we listen to understand. When we are quiet and alert to what is happening around us. When we are quiet and absorbed in learning something new or completing a task assigned. When we are quiet and observing beauty with slack jawed wonder.

It seems to me our paths to greater understanding are opened when we are silent.



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