Tag Archives: communication

Silence, Discernment & the Art of Listening III

By Stu Whitley

This is the third post in a three-part series.

In the 18th century, Sir William Herschel became the first man to discover a planet, Uranus, and six years later, he found two moons to that frozen, unimaginable world. His sister was an eminent astronomer as well, discovering three nebulae and eight comets. His son John, born into a family steeped in brilliance, wrote Treatise on Astronomy in 1833, in which he, like all visionaries, looked to the heavens to illustrate the central point in his work: he warned against misinterpretation and what he called ‘vulgar errors’ arising from imperfect or habitual apprehension. His instruction to men of reason was to try and listen, to see, and to understand the gigantic truths behind the reduced forms of mundane existence, in the same way as a sailor knows but cannot immediately measure the frozen immensity under the iceberg’s cap.

Herschel said that a person who would seek to properly understand
should “loosen his hold on all rude and hastily adopted notions, and
must strengthen himself…for the unprejudiced admission of any
conclusion which shall appear to be supported by careful observation
and logical argument, even if it should move of such a nature adverse
to notions he may have previously formed for himself,

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Silence, Discernment & the Art of Listening II

By Stu Whitley

This post is second in a three-part series.

In our relationships, as with our work, listening is absolutely fundamental to leadership and the discipline of effective communication. This includes the need to be alert for situations where cocking one’s ear to the rhythms of speech, as well as its content, will ensure better understanding. To do this in the context of conversation means to project positive non-verbal behaviour, to avoid being captured by words that we know can provoke negative emotions, by not interrupting, and by silently analyzing as dialogue proceeds.

When witnesses testify, when judges speak, when communities express
concern, or when a victim expresses doubt, we sometimes—often—hear only
what we want to hear, and dismiss the rest. In doing so, we overlook
the lesson of one of the primal aboriginal teachings: to hear the most
important part of the message, it is necessary to hear with the eyes

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Silence, Discernment & the Art of Listening

By Stu Whitley

This post is the first in a thee-part series.

at a conference, recently, the dais groanedunder the ponderous weight of self-important menin bow ties and eyeglasses secured with small chainsholding forth in florid phrase and vexing verbositydemonstrating the gulf between the idea and its impartingrow on row of upturned faces, seeking wheat among the chaffsorting the useful from the meretriciouspursuing truth, or at least its cousin, knowledgebut this function depends, it seems to me, upon discernmentthe capacity to know what is essentialin any given instance or competing circumstancestheir voices fade; my mind has wandered to where you areas always, all things come back to my beloved womanand much of what engages my time, presently,groans upon the dais of my existencefor I have discerned the truth; what is importantwhich more and more seems central to my life:I am listening to the only song that mattersit is simply that, I am loving you

As any good senior bureaucrat must do these days I am required to conduct Performance Reviews and complete ‘appraisal reports’ of employees for whom I am responsible. Time and again I am reminded how important it is to listen carefully. Not only to those whose efforts we are considering over the past year (as well as those in turn whose responsibility it is to assess our work against the standards we have agreed to), but also to ourselves. It is a reciprocal, introspective process that ought to be characterized by attentiveness and absorption. Time doesn’t always permit it.

The older we get, I think, the more clearly we see how important it is to be patient in our listening.

I read something a little while ago by Jose Kusugak, President of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, in Nunavut. He was writing about a childhood Inuit game called Aaqsiiq,
the ‘silence game’. What a wonderfully simple but elegant concept:

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Listening II

By Marilyn Hay

How much do we miss in non-verbal communication just in passing? Do we respond to what other  people are telling us about themselves unconsciously, simply responding to their words? Or do we check what they’re saying against the non-verbal cues they are unconsciously projecting? I call these unconscious messages ‘heartsongs’.

wonder if we so often don’t pay attention to, or  address, heartsongs
because we feel we’d somehow be intruding in another’s privacy, or
that ‘it’s none of our business.’ Or perhaps we think we’re too busy to
get into something that doesn’t really pertain directly to us. But … 
we are all part of this great community of life, not separate and
apart,  isolated from one another, unless we choose to be. There is

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