The art of listening and speaking


At a time when the principles of civil discourse and open-mindedness, compromise and mutual respect are being greatly challenged,  let’s focus on listening and speaking.

At, Rabbi Benjamin Rapaport writes, in “4 Steps to Great Listening,”

“The Zohar, the primary source of Kabbalah, taught long ago the true secret of connection: great listening.

“The Zohar reveals that listening and unity are intimately related. Let’s consider the faculty of hearing. Every word that is spoken is heard one by one. It is only in the mind of the listener that the words come together and combine into a meaningful whole. This physical reality reflects a spiritual truth: It is through really listening that discrete, separate entities come together and form a greater whole. How we hear determines the quality of our relationships.”

There is a big difference between listening and hearing in quality and quantity. When we hear, we hear words. When we are not paying attention, we hear sound. If we look attentive, we can often get away with not listening, but listening gives us and the person we are talking to something far greater.

When we listen, we listen for tone and inflection, and we see expression. We pick up feelings  and intent, especially if we listen well.

Listening is an art and a great skill. If we learn to listen well, we can get to the heart of the matter. The words we use also  count. The well-known phrase “Treat others as you want to be treated” applies to all situations in business and in our personal lives.

Here are some tips to know when to be silent and when to speak

• Talk when you have something to offer that the other person wants to hear.

• Listen when someone has something to tell you and needs to talk.

• Talk when you need to express yourself and the time is right.

• Listen first in a new situation. Assess the environment and speak when you can contribute to the topic.

• When calling, ask the person if this is a good time to talk.

I have learned that people tend to listen when the spoken words have meaning for them, and shut down when others talk too much, too fast, are repetitious and say things that are not of interest. Listening well is how we learn what to say and how to say it.

Silence is golden and so is speech, especially when it’s balanced and meets the needs of both the giver and the receiver.

PATRICIA RASKIN, is president of Raskin Resources Productions Inc., is an award-winning radio producer and Rhode Island business owner. She is the host of “The Patricia Raskin” show, a radio and podcast coach, and a board member of Temple Emanu-El, in Providence.