Ernest Hemingway on Listening

October 8, 2012

“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.”

Ernest Hemingway

How well do you listen to others? We know we listen with our ears! And people talk about listening with their hearts, but do you listen with your other senses? What more can you “hear” when you isolate that sense and close your eyes? What do you “hear” by observing body language? What do your eyes “hear”? What do you “hear” in the pauses, the silence, the in between moments when thoughts are collected? What do you “hear” when your hand is wrapped in another hand, or resting on a shoulder and the skin feels cool, or warm, or twitches? What do you “hear” through the sense of smell?

I work with young children. When the first snow of the season falls, it is always a moment of magic for them. When the snowflakes are big and heavy and there is a glittering layer of diamond snow already on the ground, we go outside to “hear” the snow fall. Really!! For a few moments the children themselves are frozen. Then their eyes light up and they smile!! Have you ever heard snow falling?

When we practice listening, totally, using all our senses and all the things we know and have learned about one another, we HEAR differently. And we have an opportunity to be invited into a very personal and private place of the person we are listening to. The place we can only get to through respect, patience, kindness, listening……a place where maybe there are not even any words to hear.

I think Hemingway was talking about listening to words and the sounds of the world around him. There is no question about good listening skills being a valuable tool. When we learn how to become a complete listener, we will, as Hemingway says, learn a great deal about the other person, about ourselves and about the world around us.

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