EngagePerspectivesListen with a Willingness to be Changed
Dialogue Icon Service Icon Wellness Icon

Listen with a Willingness to be Changed

Mark Nepo’s quote is a favorite of my colleague, Dr. Harris Sokoloff and he regularly invokes it in our SNF Paideia Program designated course, “Can We Talk? Courageous Civility for Troubled Times,” and the Gamba Family Red & Blue Exchange forum discussions.

soft light on rocks on the beach

To listen is to lean in softly with the willingness to be changed by what you hear.

– Mark Nepo

 

Perhaps most powerfully, this definition describes listening as something that requires two concrete actions, a physical posture change (external) “leaning in softly”; and a conscious loosening of the potentially tight grip one holds on ideological views (internal). Both are actions and both require work.

Interestingly we listen all the time. It is involuntary, we do not have to make ourselves listen—there aren’t flaps over our ears that we consciously have to open. Yet, Nepo is urging us towards a type of deep listening; a type of listening that requires preparation before the person we are listening to starts speaking.

Listening in this way requires attentiveness as well as preparation. It requires an understanding of yourself and the ability to hold your views such that another person’s words could remake them. It is making a conscious decision that others have something of value to contribute to your ideas.

Nepo requires a change in metaphor when one meets to talk with others. Rather than the metaphor of war, with its bunkers and defensive actions and reactions, it calls for that of a table, hosting people to share views as they pass around delicious food, in peace, and in fellowship.

As an Italian American, I am both comforted and energized by the table metaphor. It is one that deeply resonates and even though, in this pandemic moment, the literal meal table cannot always be as big as I would like, the metaphor is one that illuminates my imagination towards discourse. I can see people around the table, leaning in to better hear each other, laughing and engaging deeply and respectfully towards understanding.

Related Content

Keep Reading

Community Care
Podcast

Self Care, Community Care, and Social Change: Youth Access to Nutritious Food

Jarrett Stein, a two-time Penn alumnus and a staff member at the Netter Center for Community Partnerships, joins host Dr. Lia Howard to discuss food awareness and education.Learn More
The Schuylkill River looking north towards the Philadelphia skyline.
Blog

“Nature Rx” field trip to Awbury Arboretum

As part of the “Nature Rx” course, the students and I have taken some trips to local gardens and arboretums. On October 25, we visited… Learn More
Students at the University Community Engagement: A Dialogue Amongst Penn Students Involved in Community Work event.
Event Recap

University Community Engagement: A Dialogue Amongst Penn Students Involved in Community Work Recap

Utilizing the SNF Paideia Small Grant Program, I hosted the event “University Community Engagement: A Dialogue Amongst Penn Students… Learn More