American Civic Life

Want to Build Your Interfaith Skills? Start with Listening

December 9, 2020

“In different degrees and in many different ways, listening ability is affected by our emotions. Figuratively we reach up and mentally turn off what we do not want to hear. Or, on the other hand, when someone says what we especially want to hear, we open our ears wide, accepting everything—truths, half-truths, or fiction. We might say, then, that our emotions act as aural filters. At times they in effect cause deafness, and at other times they make listening altogether too easy.”

“Listening was my biggest teacher and skill I developed in college as an interfaith leader and organizer,” noted Clare. “It’s because I heard perspectives from people my age on identities and matters I had never experienced myself that I was better able to lead interfaith conversations and activities.”

“[I have] the ability just to sit down with someone and be uncomfortable. I don’t know what they’re going to say, I don’t know how they’re going to respond, and I don’t have to agree with them. I can sit and listen, I can ask questions, and it’s not necessarily for me to impose.”

“It was incredible … How do I describe it … We talked about these questions and it was just like this bonding experience. It was so warm and positive. We just felt connected and it was just easier, smoother … The feeling of community [afterward] was there in a pretty robust way.”