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Workshop on Listening

Sunday, February 6, 2022 5 Adar I 5782

11:45 AM - 1:00 PMOnline

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Relationships are at the core of what makes most of the world exist; those in families, those with friends, with work colleagues, classmates, and even strangers we meet. How those relationships begin, continue, and end has everything to do with how we relate to one another. “Relating” is how we express ourselves, and how others return the interaction through their words. What happens in the middle is perhaps the most critical piece—how much both parties have actually listened (not just heard) what the other has to say.

This workshop is the first of a series developed by members of CBT and PCIS, based on works by Kathy Escobar, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, and others. It’s presented as an adult education program to develop greater proficiency in skills that can affect real change in ourselves so that we can be a part of changing the world. These workshops will provide background information on a topic to be practiced, with guidance and questions for discussion followed by small group (~4 persons) break-out sessions. Each will address a new topic from a multi-faith perspective.

The goal of the first session is to focus on Listening. It is not easy to listen deeply to another particularly when that person has a view or opinion that differs from our own. We hear without listening. Rather than fully engaging with what we are hearing, we are thinking about how we might respond. Or we might nod, knowing full well that we are not going to act on the words being uttered by the other person. Listening is about understanding and requires intention. Listening must become a way of being and thus requires practice.

God gave us two ears and one mouth, and a mouth that can close but ears that are always open. The central Judaic prayer, the Shema, opens with “Listen.” These tell us something!

According to Rabbi Sacks, “Listening lies at the very heart of a relationship. It means that we are open to the other, that we respect him or her, that their perceptions and feelings matter to us. We give them permission to be honest, even if this means making ourselves vulnerable in so doing. A good parent listens to their child. A good employer listens to his or her workers. A good company listens to its customers or clients. A good leader listens to those he or she leads. Listening does not mean agreeing, but it does mean caring. Listening is the climate in which love and respect grow. Lives can be changed by great listeners.”

Our default, often not consciously, is to think we are superior to people who differ from us. This has become worse in these days of deep division within our country. Thus, it is important to start with the realization that we are all God’s children, made in the image of God, and worthy of dignity and respect.

Ask questions to clarify understanding instead of only making statements. For some people, this is very difficult as our first impulse is to insert our own opinions without fully understanding the viewpoint of the other. If you are one of these people, it is important to practice asking clarifying questions before asserting your beliefs.

Please reflect on the statements below as we will talk about the following during the smaller virtual group discussion:

“Hearing is paying attention to words that are shared. Listening is about being open to being taught and transformed by what we hear.”

 “Listening is a core practice that infiltrates all our relationships and starts with our own self-awareness at how hard it is to do. It’s about more ears, less mouth. It’s listening to real stories that change everything. It’s about empathy. It’s about letting go of control and letting others teach us. It’s for making room for new voices at the table.”

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Fri, May 27 2022 26 Iyar 5782