Making space to listen

By Jennifer Hilton. Jennifer and Cathy McNally are leading Communication Fundamentals at the Haven, March 5–8, 2015. This program, created and first led by Ernie and Cathy McNally, is an in-depth exploration of how The Haven Communication Model can help you in the art of self-responsible relational living. Cathy Wilder and Toby Macklin are offering the program again, October 16–19, 2015.

I like words. I like knowing the meaning of words. That doesn’t surprise me: my family has always been vocal and in the past, when they were apart from each other, they wrote letters. I come from five generations of sea captains who sent letters across many oceans, for many years – letters that were read and re-read by those at home. In those days, letters took months to reach their destination and were often saved for years.

My mother carries on the tradition, keeping letters I write. I am of the generation that wrote letters to family and friends, the early ones being forced (“thank-you” letters) and later for enjoyment and the anticipation of receiving one in return. Even though I didn’t have to wait as long as my grandmother did for a reply, it sometimes seemed a lifetime before it finally arrived. I loved going to the mailbox and finding a hand-written letter!

No longer do we have to wait for a ship to sail to know we will hear from someone. However, the term “hearing from someone” implies that there is a space between sending and receiving – a vast listening time. Today talking, texting, emailing, blogging, and tweeting cut that listening time into tiny pieces. Daily, as I engage in modern communication of any kind, I’m often overwhelmed with words, drowning in ideas, unable to concentrate on any one thing. I have to consciously slow down and create listening time!

One of the things I valued most about learning the Haven Communication Model is how, when I consciously choose to “follow the flow”, I can create more space in my thinking, talking and listening … especially when I slow things down.

Slowing down does not come naturally to me. But I know that when I do choose slow, I’m conscious of a lot of things that I would miss if I were going “fast”. Fast has its purpose, but what I am continually discovering is that if I want to improve in something, I have to back off and slow down. This applies to just about everything in my life, but especially communication.

In the past, letter writing was slow. Waiting for a reply to a letter was even slower. Those days are past – today we can communicate across the world in a heartbeat. But there is a great deal to be said for slowing down, pausing to breathe while talking. And making space to just LISTEN!

Join me and Cathy this March 5–8 for Communication Fundamentals!

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