Love begins with listening. That’s not our original thought. That was said by Fred Rogers, the Mr. Rogers whose neighborhood was a harbor of love, and if anybody knew anything about infusing enthusiasm in his daily life, it was Mr. Rogers. He also said, “As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has – or ever will have – something inside that is unique to all time.” It follows that we cannot help people recognize how special they are if we cannot see their rare traits and valuable qualities, and we cannot see them if we are not listening to them.
Anybody who has ever had a job that involved more than just one person has at some time been exposed to the concept of “active listening.” Almost every leadership course or program addresses active listening. Its origins, however, are not in business or leadership. The concept of active listening was developed by psychologist Carl Rogers while a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago in the 1950s as a counseling technique. Without turning this into a course on listening skills, it is worth assuming that a valuable communication skill to master is active listening. The key to active listening is to stay engaged with the speaker. When you are truly engaged, you will naturally be focused and attentive, ask appropriate questions, and demonstrate understanding. It is not just a coincidence that when you are truly connected with someone as a parent, a partner, a best friend, you will naturally be focused on and attentive to them.
Fred Rogers quote goes on. The complete line is “Listening is where love begins: listening to ourselves and then to our neighbors.'
Listening to others is a sign of love for them. Listening - true, engaged, active listening – is work. It is part of the job description of “human.” If we never take time to listen to our partners in life, how will we ever learn how rare and valuable they are? And if we do not recognize their rare traits and valuable qualities, how can we encourage them to use their talents with enthusiasm to improve their lives and the lives of all those they encounter? When one of our fellow humans comes to us with an exciting new opportunity, an outrageous idea, or a serious heartfelt need to unburden themselves, we should consider ourselves to be lucky and loved enough that someone is willing to share their most guarded secrets, whether that secret is a better mousetrap and or a hurtful exchange our friend had with another they can’t get over.
Listening to ourselves is a sign of respect for others. When we listen to ourselves, we tell ourselves to clear our minds of our internal distractions, creating a silence ready to be filled with the thoughts others will present. When we listen to what we have to say, that. We are meant to be kind and compassionate and to be of service, we know we are listening to one we respect. By putting aside our own thoughts and concentrating on our communication partner, we are ready to hear and understand, placing the other in a position of power, the power to trust us to be their own, best listener.
Listening is an essential way of saying I love you and might be the greatest gift we can give to somebody. Love begins with listening. If we get that part right, it is quite possible that it might never end.