Empathy in Action: Why listening speaks louder than words

The interesting thing today is that in so many ways we’re more connected than we’ve ever been, but the thing that is missing from that equation is empathy… It’s being connected, but it isn’t connecting.

— Benjamin Mathes

Who We Are: The Urban Confessional Story (video) | Urban Confessional

Urban Confessional is an organization in which people go out in public and voluntarily listen to other people. That’s right — it’s about listening and being listened to for free. There’s a four page guide that covers the instructional and philosophical key points, but that’s basically all there is to it. It’s really quite simple. Mostly.

In a post on the organization’s blog, founder Benjamin Mathes wrote about his experience as a listening partner at the Republican National Convention earlier this year. The post explored how (and why) he listens to people even when he doesn’t agree with what they’re saying. What Mathes described speaks to the transformative impact of shifting our focus away from the surface level of opinion and belief, and instead exploring the deeper level of personal values and stories from which our opinions and beliefs emerge.

If there’s one question I get asked more than any other question, it’s this: How do I listen to someone when I disagree with them?… Like the roots of a tree, our stories, which can create our beliefs, are completely unique, and also connected. It is through story that we can find common ground enough to co-exist in the face of great, often necessary, tension.

Listening isn’t just necessary for cultivating human connection, it’s also necessary for the cultivation of human growth and development. When someone else is really listening to us, they are able to act as a mirror. They help us to reflect upon our own words and thoughts, to see ourselves more clearly, to look more closely or consider a different perspective, and sometimes to even be more curious, playful, and open. This kind of listening is, as sages both old and new continually try to remind us, one of the most powerful acts of service and love we can offer each other.

How to Listen When You Disagree | Urban Confessional: Benjamin Mathes

Who We Are: The Urban Confessional Story (video) | Urban Confessional