The best way to speak to someone is to remain silent and hear the speaker out.
That may seem odd, until you consider how often people talk too much and say very little. Silence is a gift that is difficult to maintain in a conversation. But it is a gift to the recipient. For the person who is not speaking it is a virtue to hear, to listen.
Lately, I have been making a point to listen to classical music on a daily basis. My personal preference for classical music can be found in the Core Competency of Listening. The more I listen to classical music the better a listener I become. In a symphony, listening requires careful attention to hear the composer express whatever his intention is within the work. Is it joy or sorrow? Solace or regret? Introspection? All of the above? What emotions arise as you hear the piece? When listening to orchestral works there is distance and convergence, space, silence and separation within movements. The composer leaves it up to the listener as to how to interpret the music.
One of the things musicians know is that it is the slow movements that are the most difficult to play. The audience is listening not as much for the technical bravado of a fast presto movement, but for something deeper within the melody that is carefully constructed. The beauty of slow movements is that you can really hear the spaces (silence) between sounds that link one musical phrase (sentence) to another. In the hands of a skilled musician, those spaces are connections, and in context of the whole piece a bond is formed.
Think of conversation that way. Give people the space they need to speak their ideas, even if they express themselves with hesitation. Think of their ideas as unique melodies that make up the entire piece, the whole person. How does the person connect one idea to another? Is there an understanding of the passages? Is there a bond or a gap that needs to be bridged to understand the message expressed?
These are the blessings of a loving relationship. Many people don’t know how to do it. Maybe it’s because they never experienced it growing up. Perhaps they were invalidated by parents, teachers or caretakers.
The good news is…listening is a skill that can be learned at any age.
With space you learn to anticipate one another with joy. Don’t be eager to speak. Delay your response and let your companion’s words settle. Your partner will appreciate the wait. If people would really listen – and not just hear – the intervals between the words, they would experience a new relationship with every sentence spoken.
Copyright November 2016 by Bonnie Chernin.