Tomorrow, April 11, has been declared International Listening Day by a group I follow called Urban Confessional. Like the Listening Post of Anchorage, this group has experienced the power of intentional, nonjudgmental listening and is tired of the status quo–the status quo of talking over one another, interrupting, defending one’s own position. The loss is understanding where the other person is coming from–and then we lose as a community. Urban Confessional operates simply by asking folks to make a cardboard sign with the words “Free Listening” on it and go stand in a place where people pass by–and listen to understand.
The Listening Post offers weekly Free Listening in 9 places in the city now with over 35 active listeners. Yet there is another layer of vulnerability to offer it on the street. I’ve done it only once at the Town Square in our city on a cloudy cold September day that marked our ten years of listening as an organization. And tourists, university students and a few homeless came to sit. The simple act of connection in sharing a story. I’ll be doing it tomorrow again.
Wherever you are ( you don’t have to be on the street) I invite you to take a moment to listen in this way to a family member or friend or colleague or that random person you encounter in your life tomorrow. Or go to Urban Confessional.org and register to join the movement . It’s thrilling to see who is part of this movement worldwide. I can tell you how listening empowers, clarifies, de-escalates, affirms, builds trust and connects, but it’s the experience that changes us, not these words. We are in a culture that is bent on division. But it’s not who we really are.
And if that person has an opinion that is the exact opposite of how you see things, you might ask, “I wonder if you would be willing to tell me how you came to the opinion?” It has sometimes blown me away to realize what I have assumed is not so true.