Tuning into love: the power of listening

Explore the art of listening in life’s theater, where tuning into others’ stories turns everyday moments into extraordinary scenes.

“Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person they are almost indistinguishable.”

David Augsburger

Welcome to the theater of life, a stage where every conversation is a scene and listening is the spotlight that reveals the true essence of the play. Here, we’re all unwitting actors, sometimes stumbling over our lines, other times delivering them with an Oscar-worthy flair. And in this grand production, the role of the listener is as crucial as that of the speaker, though it seldom gets the same applause.

The truth is, we’re all living, breathing broadcasting stations. We endlessly transmit signals about our thoughts, feelings, and the minutiae of daily life—from pondering the existential significance of choosing the right cereal to rehearsing imaginary arguments we’ll never have. And nestled within this eclectic broadcast are those cringe-worthy moments that create stories we retell… like when I waved enthusiastically at my friend Froh, only to realize it wasn’t Froh, but a complete stranger. It’s the kind of thing that makes you want to crawl into a hole, but also, in a strange way, it’s what binds us together in the comedy of human existence.

The opportunities to both listen and be heard are everywhere.

Picture this: you’re at a family dinner, a veritable stage for the comedy of errors that is family communication. Uncle Alfredo is there, launching into a monologue about his latest conspiracy theory, featuring black helicopters and chemtrails. You, on the other hand, are itching to share your own saga, a harrowing tale of man versus machine, specifically you versus a self-checkout machine that seemed hell-bent on your humiliation.

As you both speak, it becomes a duet of monologues, each lost in your own narrative. Midway through your epic checkout battle, you catch Uncle Alfredo’s glazed look, his attention firmly anchored on his mashed potatoes. It’s a moment of revelation: here you are, performing Hamlet to an audience of snoozing cats, and you realize, with a mix of humor and resignation, that neither of you is truly listening to the other. It’s like two radio stations playing at the same time, each drowning out the other’s signal.

But then…

There are those golden moments when someone actually listens. Not the head-nodding, grocery-list-making kind of listening—but the kind that makes you feel like you’ve just won an Oscar for “Best Life Narration.” You’re no longer a background actor—you’re center stage, spotlight on, audience captivated.

This realization hit me like a ton of bricks one evening. Amidst the hustle of daily life, I found myself tuning out the very people who color my world. My wife’s anecdotes about her day, my youngest’s schoolyard dramas, and my oldest’s latest chapters from his post-apocalyptic novel (which, by the way, might just be the next big thing). These stories were all in need of a listener and I was missing out.

Listening, I learned, isn’t just about lending an ear. It’s about stepping out of your own narrative to fully immerse yourself in someone else’s. It’s not always easy. Sometimes, after a day that feels like a marathon in quicksand, listening can feel like the last mile you just don’t want to run. But, oh, the rewards! It’s like investing in emotional stocks and watching the love and understanding dividends roll in.

So, the next time you’re at a gathering, or just at home with your loved ones, sandwiched between Uncle Alfredo’s chemtrail theories and the humdrum of daily life, remember this: to listen is to love. It’s a gift that might cost you your momentary peace but pays back in a currency richer than any you’ve known. It’s like finding a rare pearl in an oyster you almost didn’t bother to open.

In the end, being the listener someone needs can transform your own story. You become not just a character in your own right but a cherished narrator in the lives of others. And who knows, in the midst of all this, you might just stumble upon your own emotional encore, more rewarding than any standing ovation.

So, tune in, turn up the volume of your heart, and listen. The stories you’ll hear are the scenes that make life’s theater truly grand.