Different Ways to Listen

When I returned from Mongolia in 2010, I enrolled in a class at Portland State University called, “Spiritual Leadership for Sustainable Change.”

In this course we read Parker Palmer’s book, “The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life,” in which Palmer wrote about the Quaker tradition of Clearness Committees.

I recall in class we discussed the intentional listening practiced by the Quakers, a practice of refraining from verbal or physical responses that might suggest an opinion of what was being shared by the speaker.

I was about to turn 30 & I had never consider there was a way to listen that didn’t include the occasional, “Mmhm, yes,” or “I hear ya,” with lots of head shaking & facial expressions.

When we listen, what do the trees tell us?

In my current 200-hour Master Coach training I’ve been introduced to a concept of listening that’s comprised of 3 parts:

  • Listen To
  • Listen For
  • Listen With

Listening To is about gathering data:

  • What are the exact words being spoken?
  • What’s the body language?
  • What’s the breath doing?

Listening For is about listening for the thing beneath the thing.

What are the stories, goals, values, & desires that exist & aren’t being explicitly said?

Listening For is also about identifying themes & patterns. I absolutely love this part! My dear permaculture mentor, Toby Hemenway (RIP), changed my life when he taught me about pattern literacy. To integrate his teachings into this training brings me such joy.

Listening With is about bringing our whole self (& our magick) into the conversation:

  • What’s our gut response?
  • What’s our intuitive self hearing?

When we combine Listening To, For, & With we increase our chance of truly understanding what is being shared with us.


Your Action

Grab your journal & explore these prompts:

  • Recall a time you felt heard. Describe it in detail.
  • How do you know when you’re intuition speaks to you?