Listening As An Act Of Transformation

Doug Lipman

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Awakin FeatureTwo villagers came to a rabbi with a dispute. When the rabbi invited them to sit down and talk about it, they glowered at each other as though to say, “If you sit down at this table, then I won’t!” At last, they sat at the rabbi’s table with arms folded, casting angry glances at each other.

Then the rabbi said, “Do you have anything more to say, Shlomo?” Yes, Shlomo asserted, he had more to say. The rabbi kept listening to Shlomo’s answers and asking him questions about them until at last Shlomo said, more calmly, “No. I have nothing more to say.”

Next, the rabbi turned toward the other villager, Moshe, and asked, “What happened?” The rabbi listened to him and asked him questions until he, too, said, “I have nothing more to say.”

The rabbi rose from the table to leave the room, saying, “I will deliberate on this and come back with a decision.”

Less than a minute later, the rabbi returned, sat back down at the table, and said, “I have reached my verdict.” The rabbi described the verdict to them. Shlomo and Moshe looked at each other and each said, “All right. That solves it.” They shook hands and left.

Another man had been in the room and had watched all this. He said to the rabbi, “You found the solution in just a minute. Why did you let them talk so long, when you knew the answer right away?”

The rabbi said, “If I had not listened to each one’s full story, each would have resented my decision. It wasn’t my judgment that solved the problem. What solved it was listening to their entire stories.”

Above is a retelling of an ancient Hasidic tale, retold by Doug Lipman in this article.

Seed questions for reflection: How do you relate to the notion that it was the listening and not the judgment that caused the transformation? Can you share a personal story of a time listening deeply caused a transformation in your life? What helps you have the patience and commitment to listen deeply?

Add Your Reflection:

11 Previous Reflections:

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    On Mar 31, 2019 ali raza wrote:
    nice wording .

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    On Apr 4, 2018 Elizabeth Taylor wrote:

     If a friend/acquaintance talks on and on in a negative and blaming tone, how is best to deal with this? Listening in silence seems to encourage the blaming and the negativity? I have found it less than helpful to remain silent at such times, and have felt the need to propose alternative ways of thinking. Otherwise, the individual just seems to continue with endless streams of vitriol towards whomever/whatever is the current target, and not to move out of this mode? Patient, silent, "compassionate" listening does not always work when people seem determined to remain aggrieved?


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    On Apr 3, 2018 Devendra wrote:

    Listening is an art but listening other's story/ issue/ matter with compassion.....is like service to GOD. It will unite/ heal and spread love to the world.


    1 reply: Jo | Post Your Reply
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    On Apr 2, 2018 Jagdish P Dave wrote:
    In interpersonal communication, we want the other person to fully understand us and such understanding takes place when we deeply, non-judgmentally and patiently listen to the other person. Such communication creates a bridge of wholesome and authentic relationship rather than walls of misunderstanding and annoying and futile arguments.This  is what the rabbi does in this short but elegant story. I run into such transactions quite often in my class room and on the play ground when two children got into the stance of "I am right and you're wrong." Like the rabbi, I fully, deeply and no-judgmentally listen to each child and ask relevant questions. It doesn't take much time. At the end each child  like the villager in the story says, " I have nothing more to say." and joins each other's hands. Such experiences slowly and gradually create a big change in their communications and relationships. What helps me have the patience and commitment to listen to them deeply is my deep and... [View Full Comment]

    In interpersonal communication, we want the other person to fully understand us and such understanding takes place when we deeply, non-judgmentally and patiently listen to the other person. Such communication creates a bridge of wholesome and authentic relationship rather than walls of misunderstanding and annoying and futile arguments.This  is what the rabbi does in this short but elegant story.

    I run into such transactions quite often in my class room and on the play ground when two children got into the stance of "I am right and you're wrong." Like the rabbi, I fully, deeply and no-judgmentally listen to each child and ask relevant questions. It doesn't take much time. At the end each child  like the villager in the story says, " I have nothing more to say." and joins each other's hands. Such experiences slowly and gradually create a big change in their communications and relationships. What helps me have the patience and commitment to listen to them deeply is my deep and genuine caring for my students.

    When my wife passed away six years ago, my heart was filled with heavy sadness. As I was going through the grieving process, people close to me let me grieve and express my sadness. They listened to me deeply, non-judgmentally, patiently and affectionately.Their devoted attention and non-judgmental and supportive presence was instrumental in healing me.

    May we cultivate the qualities of deep listening to build between people rather than walls!

    Namaste.

    Jagdish P Dave



















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    On Apr 1, 2018 Kristin Pedemonti wrote:
    When listened to we feel valued, when asked reflective questions and if we have anything more to say, we feel both heard, valued and perhaps even understood. This is what so many are aching for in the US and in the world that is so hurting. So many feel unheard and in turn unvalued and misunderstood. When we feel listened to by someone fully present we feel that we do have value and that our voice matters. I've been listening deeply for a long time and even more so since the 2016 election. I've made my social media a space for listening and for compassion and because of this I've had people on all sides message me and converse with me. I've had people share their deep experiences and thoughts. And just last week, totally unrelated to the US, while I was in Albania presenting a Communication Workshop.  One of the attendees approached me afterwards and started to share some of his life story. I listened, providing space and then he shared he struggled with depression. I listened. A... [View Full Comment]

    When listened to we feel valued, when asked reflective questions and if we have anything more to say, we feel both heard, valued and perhaps even understood. This is what so many are aching for in the US and in the world that is so hurting. So many feel unheard and in turn unvalued and misunderstood. When we feel listened to by someone fully present we feel that we do have value and that our voice matters. I've been listening deeply for a long time and even more so since the 2016 election. I've made my social media a space for listening and for compassion and because of this I've had people on all sides message me and converse with me. I've had people share their deep experiences and thoughts. And just last week, totally unrelated to the US, while I was in Albania presenting a Communication Workshop.  One of the attendees approached me afterwards and started to share some of his life story. I listened, providing space and then he shared he struggled with depression. I listened. And then I hugged him and whispered,"I've been on that journey too." He shared more. I felt deeply honored that he would share something so deeply personal especially at a work related training. We ended up making time to have breakfast together the next morning. We listened to each other across our cultures, providing space. It was wonderful. I think the patience to listen deeply comes from knowing what it feels like to be listened to myself and from the responses from others who are so grateful to have that space created for them too. <3 

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    On Apr 1, 2018 david doane wrote:

     This essay by Doug Lipman is for me a beautiful and powerful story.  It expresses a lesson that I am still learning.  I know that listening allows and facilitates transformation.  We heal and transform from inside out, and what we need is a chance to let our inside out, and someone listening nonjudgmentally makes that easier.  Feeling deeply listened to facilitated my opening up, expressing me, and learning more about myself.  Feeling deeply listened to I felt accepted which enhanced my self-acceptance and self-confidence and being myself, all of which were significant transformation in  my life.  What helps me have the patience and commitment to listen deeply is knowing the transformative power and satisfaction of deep listening both for the one being listened to and for me as the listener.


    1 reply: Beautiful! | Post Your Reply
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    On Mar 31, 2018 Denis Khan wrote:

     listening to what is unsaid is more important than listening to what is said.


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    On Mar 31, 2018 SUSAN BRADLEY wrote:

    This is a timely subject for me... I’ve been living and working internationally now for almost 2 years. I’m amazed at how apropos this theme is to all expats, we need an ear, to be heard about the challenges with transition in regards to differences and adjusting to them; me, too. This theme also rings a bell with me on listening to ourselves and our bodies always, but specifically during times of transition albeit physical or emotional change.  


    1 reply: Watching | Post Your Reply

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