It’s a Beautiful Day to Listen
by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey
Last weekend I watched a film about an unlikely hero with unique superpowers. The film was It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. The hero was Mr. Rogers, and his two-fold superpowers were caring and listening.
Listening is a verb and is defined as giving one’s attention. To make an effort to hear something, to be alert and ready to hear something. Sounds easy enough. But when’s the last time you actually did that? Let’s face it; most of the time, when we pretend to be “listening,” we are actually thinking of ourselves. How we will respond. How what they are saying reminds us of something in our own life. How we wish they would hurry up and finish so we can talk or get on with our day.
Mr. Rogers was a great listener. He would give whoever he was talking to his complete attention. He was more interested in talking about them than talking about himself. He considered it his way of experiencing Heaven on earth. He was quoted as saying, “The connections we make in the course of a life—maybe that’s what Heaven is. Look at us—I’ve just met you, but I’m investing in who you are and who you will be.” I find that utterly enchanting. I also find it challenging.
To be a good therapist, you have to be a good listener. It is so essential they teach classes on it in Graduate School. We learn how to ask open-ended questions and keep our mouths shut while people respond. They teach us how to make the client feel they are cared about and accepted. We do that by listening without judging, which makes people feel safe and validated. Then, they blossom and begin the painful process of change.
I frequently have people tell me how sad it is they have to pay someone to listen to them. I nod my head sympathetically and validate their feelings. Then I, too, go to therapy to have someone to listen to me. Because in this world full of talkers, listeners are in short supply. I get that because outside of work, I don’t want to be the listener, I want to be the talker. I want someone to care enough about me to shut up and give me their attention. But if we are all clamoring for the spotlight, are we ever truly connecting with the people in our lives?
Jesus was a great listener, and He invested in people. He was more interested in asking them questions than He was about talking about Himself. He never interrupted or acted as if He was in too big a hurry to give them His full attention. He called that love. And He asked us to love others the way He loved us. Maybe we make love too complicated. Perhaps it’s more like listening and less like making people feel like they are our projects.
In case any of you are interested in learning how to listen, I will give you a crash course. The Bible says it best when it tells us to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. When someone is talking, fight the urge to respond with something about you. We think we are being relatable when we do that, but what we are really doing is making the conversation about us. Instead of talking about you, ask them questions about what they just said. Most of all, don’t judge! Do all of those things, and you, too, will have the same superpowers as Jesus and Mr. Rogers. You will be making it a beautiful day in somebody’s neighborhood!