Listening is powerful

This past Saturday, I spent several hours with Esther Boykin of Sidewalk Talk DC, the local branch of a national nonprofit created to “nurture a culture of kindness and empathy through compassionate non-judgmental listening.” It’s as simple and profound as that.

We met at a Starbucks in Haymarket (VA) and once the table was set up, people slowly made their way over to talk about whatever was on their minds—from dealing with family issues to getting their car towed. (Think NPR’s Story Corps meets street performance art). Each session lasted no more than ten minutes but the emotional impact on listener and "listenee" was surprisingly powerful. It’s true what they say: when you do a kindness for someone else, it comes back and returns the favor.

How can you bring more listening into your life?

- First, volunteer with Sidewalk Talk. There are events all over the DC/MD/VA area (and around the country) so register, get trained and go forth and listen. (See our Facebook page for photos.)

- Be present for others. Put down those devices, stop multi-tasking (I’m guilty of this too), and devote some time to truly engaging and connecting one-on-one with another person in that moment. Hear what they’re saying, listen for the subtext and respond. Allowing someone to talk without interruption or saying “here’s what you should do” is a gift.

- Listen to yourself. Don’t dismiss your feelings or emotions when things go wrong. Or right. Listen to your body and give it the care and nourishment it deserves. Show yourself some lovingkindness.

Do it for others. Do it for your { self }. Open your heart and listen.