Consider giving the gift of listening this holiday season. Listening with attention is a simple act with immense power. It makes us aware of our connection to each other, and giving someone our full attention invites them to feel special and important. It makes a statement that we care about them, about their ideas and feelings, that they are valuable to us. Not listening tends to foster a sense of distance and separation. Rod Stewart's song Young Turks is about the impact a lack of listening had on two families with teenagers: "there ain't no point in talking when there's nobody listening... so we just ran away". There are lots of ways that people run away: into over work, excessive time on computers, half listening while doing other things, compulsive talking, alcohol, drugs, or food. Being fully present with someone is giving the gift of yourself and acknowledging the value of the relationship.
I've heard it said that we were given two ears and one mouth and should learn to use them accordingly. Sometimes we forget and lose opportunity for connection wanting to find the right words or just trying to get things done. Author Margaret J. Wheatly reminds us "that there is a difference between listening and waiting your turn to speak. It requires us to be present, and that takes practice, but we don't have to do anything else. We don't have to advise, or coach, or sound wise. We just have to be willing to be there and listen." And don't forget to listen to yourself as well. Not just the words that come out of your mouth but the thoughts and feelings inside you. Listen to your heart, your intuition, open to divine guidance, and take the time to hear the sounds of the world around you.
There are those who believe that listening can help solve conflict not only in families but also contribute to creating peace on earth. "Compassionate listening is to help the other side suffer less. If we realize that other people are the same people as we are, we are no longer angry at them." wrote Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk and teacher.
Think about spreading joy and peace this holiday season by making the time to listen. It is a busy time of year and it may take some effort to stop and be still enough to really pay attention, so start in small doses. Ten minutes spent attentively listening to Aunt Mary might give her more pleasure than any piece of jewelry bought at the mall. Gift your spouse, companion or friend with attentive listening that includes eye contact and see what happens.