If you want to hear the heart of another, then you need to still your own. Fixing, advising, saving, or straightening out will only stifle the emergence of true wisdom. We need to listen with questions.
Sometimes I want to tell some people to shut up and just listen. They rush in with their supposed good advice so quickly that any depth of relating is stymied.
At times I have been wanting to have an in-depth conversation with someone only for it to be thwarted by others offering solutions.
We live in shallow times. The quickness of finding ‘solutions’ is as fast as you can tap the Google icon on your phone.
Got a problem. I have a solution.
Moving on. Soul connection – nil.
Have you ever felt that you have been
I think of the biblical character of Job and how, when he had lost everything, his friends came and sat with him and said nothing. They were sitting in Shiva. A time when they grieved with him. They said nothing for seven days.
It didn’t last long, though, and soon they were back fixing, advising, saving and straightening out.
It seems to be something of our nature to want to try and fix the problems. To find the reasons, to lay the blame, to rescue.
We will do anything to avoid the tense feeling of seemingly doing nothing, whereas doing what feels to be nothing could be doing something quite profound.
What would it be like to be gently and curiously probed about what is going on down deep in the soul?
Recently I have been reading A Hidden Wholeness by Parker Palmer.
In the book, he discusses a program called the Circle of Trust, which helps to develop safe places for people to discover and discern.
One of the criteria for this group is that there is to be no fixing, saving, advising or setting one straight
No fixing, saving, advising, or setting one straight.
- No Fixing.
There are no quick-fix solutions. Fixing denies the person of the value of being deeply listened to. Fixing can skip over the real need.
- No Saving
Saving people from whatever they are experiencing can dis-empower them from a valuable learning process.
- No Advising
When advice is given, we are saying that we know best, yet deep in the person, there may well be inner wisdom that needs to be fostered and drawn out.
- No setting one straight
A ‘setting one straight’ stifles openness. It implies one already knows what is straight.
Listen with questions
I would suggest that we listen with questions.
We can ask questions — inquiries of the soul.
Questions that might open doors where God may well be hiding an even more delightful question.
Learn to respond to others with honest, open questions instead of counsel or corrections. With such questions, we help “hear each other into deeper speech.” Parker J. Palmer.
Ask empowering questions that encourage a thoughtful look inside — open-ended questions where there can be no ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer.
Listen with silence
We are to listen and perhaps say nothing at all. Silence can allow Spirit (Holy) to find room to whisper what is needed most.
Today listen for those moments when you feel drawn to fix, advise, save, or straighten out. Take a quiet breathe and ask a question. A simple open-ended question that digs that takes the conversation just that little bit further.
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Quotes to consider
- When you speak to me about your deepest questions, you do not want to be fixed or saved: you want to be seen and heard, to have your truth acknowledged and honored. Parker J. Palmer. A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life
- Good work is relational, and its outcomes depend on what we are able to evoke from each other. Parker J. Palmer
- It is usually most helpful to ask questions that are more about the person than about the problem. Parker J. Palmer
Questions to answer
- Why do we rush to quickly solve the presenting problem?
- What would it be like for you to have someone being gently curious about your soul?
- Which is more difficult for you not to do, and why? No fixing, no saving, no advising, or no setting one straight.
Barry is a writer, coach, and course creator that has a passion for Mental Health and Spiritual Formation.
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