Becoming The Listener

Hearing requires empathy.

Often, our words fall short of what we truly mean to say and want to get across.

There is a feeling, an intention behind what we are trying to say that we cannot quite capture with words, that eludes our grasp, and that misses the target we are aiming for.

In spite of our best efforts, we struggle to truly communicate.

The words that come out of our mouths feel like a shallow representation of some deeper truth we mean to speak, like the shadow of that upon which we are trying to shed light.

We fumble around the best we can, but our attempts to be heard still feel like failure.

All of this can be quite frustrating.

Sometimes, this frustration can even turn into what feels like unresolvable conflict.

If the relationship is worth the effort, we keep trying, looking for a way to communicate so that our true intentions come across.

What we often fail to realize, however, is that communication begins with listening.

If we want to be heard, we must first be willing to listen to the way that the person is listening.

This requires empathy.

We have to learn how to put ourselves in the place of the listener and to imagine what our words, gestures, and expressions sound like, look like, and feel like to them.

If we want to communicate, the onus is on us to adapt to the listener and this requires us to become the listener.


Holistic Budo: As it is in budo, so too it is in life. As it is in life, so too it is in budo.

Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

All photos by Robert Van Valkenburgh unless otherwise noted.

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