Catholics for a Changing Church

How do I listen?

Raynah Braganza Passanha, a teacher, counsellor and writer from India, invites us, in the light of Synod 2023, to reflect upon the art and skill of listening.

Covid Times has highlighted the internal pain of people not feeling heard, not being understood for who they really are, feeling an aloneness in the midst of the numerous social medial friends and following they possess … and how this aloneness acts as the trigger to feeling life not worth living thus pushing them over the edge to end things…. No more pain!

My last post ‘Mirror, Mirror on the Wall’ was my experience of feeling not heard or understood. A few recent encounters of mine where my participation in the conversations was negated and discounted right at the beginning of long conversations [which then ended as one-way instructions/advice all lovingly given with an intention to help me], made me reflect on why I felt left out of the conversations? How do I listen to others?

Do I hear their words or try to listen to what is being communicated?

Often people’s words don’t match their body language.. And communication is 90% non-verbal. Do I focus on the words and ignore what they are saying by not saying it aloud … ie. what they are communicating by their tone, their eyes, their stance, their very body! Then my response is just a reaction to 10% of their communication.

Do I speak for most of the time or do I give people an equal opportunity to express?

Very often I can feel alone in a conversation …. Of which I am not a part…. Do I do that to others? Do I get so enthralled in spouting out my ‘wisdom’ that the other finds it difficult to get a word in edgeways, and is too intimidated by my spiel or probably just too nice to butt in aggressively and end the conversation.

Do I respond from my own perception or from the perception of the person I am listening to?

Our backgrounds, our personalities and natures, our take on things and way of doing things are different.  There is never a ‘one size fits all’ way of either seeing or responding to situations. Nor is there a right way or a wrong way of perceiving people, things, situations…. There are just different ways. I need to listen to where someone is coming from, how they see their situation and more importantly, why, before I can even think of leading them into seeing another perspective or options.

Do I shoot out solutions?

 Do I he­ar the beginning of someone’s conversation and think I am privy to the whole situation? Do I shoot out solutions .. insist they follow them without finding out what have they tried that has not worked, whether they have already tried what I am suggesting and how it panned out. Shooting out solutions without listening first, diminishes the other and their capacity to reason out and act.

Do the words ‘No’ and ‘I’ figure out a lot in my response?

Do I highlight the positives in the other? Do I encourage the efforts put in or am I negative when I listen …. Do I look out for things that the other has done wrong [according to ‘me’] and feel I’m duty bound to point it out. Does ‘No, no, no, you should not have done that’ or another form of the same thing have any purpose other than slighting the other person’s ability to make choices. Or does “I’m telling you this is the way, listen to me, do as I’m telling you…” or a version of it figure a lot in my conversations.


People do things, make decisions, don’t get the results they want and most times just need a bouncing board, a listening ear, a gentle nudge to see things from another perspective, while they work out things for themselves. They don’t need to be told what shouldn’t be done. They have done  it and want to find a way to move on… They are not looking for readymade ‘should be done’ lists or instructions either.

People need to be listened to … to what they are saying not saying…. They want to feel heard not diminished or discounted even further. Do people leave me feeling empowered or disempowered? Energised and valued or defeated and devalued?

Life is difficult enough as it is without us adding to the struggles people face dealing with what life deals them.