Listening Is an Act of Hospitality

Earlier this week, Tuesday to be exact, the world observed World Listening Day, established in 2010 to celebrate listening. Why, you might ask, does this matter? What does it have to do with child and family welfare?

This is a noisy world, filled to the brim with distraction, diatribes, and division. Silence is a rare commodity, which leaves little space for listening. Both are essential to our mental health. And listening, according to Henri Nouwen, is an act of spiritual hospitality. Yet, most of us hear, rather than listen. We impatiently think about what we want to say next instead of deeply listening to the other person.

In such a loud world, the voices of marginalized members of our communities are often overwhelmed. They cannot be heard above the din. And if they are heard, few really listen to them. That’s why Saint Francis Ministries works hard to incorporate the voices of the children and families we serve into case plans and treatment models. No one knows the needs of a child better than the child her/himself. No one knows the inner dynamics of a family better than the family itself.

If we truly believe in the dignity and worth of every human being, which Saint Francis does, then we must acknowledge that every human being deserves to be heard and listened to. It’s the only way we can develop empathy and understanding of the challenges and traumas of another. It’s how we learn their stories.

We don’t need to wait for World Listening Day to hone our listening skills. It is, after all, a lifetime project.

Here are a few tips to help us become more active listeners:

  • Face the speaker and maintain eye contact
  • Pay attention to non-verbal cues, body language
  • Don’t interrupt
  • Listen without judgement
  • Don’t start planning what to say next
  • Show you’re listening, nod and smile
  • Stay focused and present
  • Ask questions

And remember, by listening attentively and actively to another person, we’re acknowledging their worth and dignity. That’s important.

Is There Room in Your Life to learn to listen better? Is There Room in Your Day to listen to another, to really listen?

Picture of Shane Schneider
Shane Schneider

Shane is the Editorial Content Manager for the Marketing and Communications Department at Saint Francis Ministries.

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