Interior stability

To listen is very hard, because it asks of us so much interior stability that we no longer need to prove ourselves by speeches, arguments, statements or declarations. True listeners no longer have an inner need to make their presence known. They are free to receive, welcome, to accept.

~ Henri Nouwen


Generous listening

Generous listening is powered by curiosity, a virtue we can invite and nurture in ourselves to render it instinctive. It involves a kind of vulnerability— a willingness to be surprised, to let go of assumptions and take in ambiguity. The listener wants to understand the humanity behind the words of the other, and patiently summons one’s own best self and one’s own best words and questions.

~ Krista Tippett from,

I haven’t [yet] read her book, but I’m in total agreement with this statement.

I’ve had several conversations where I’ve had, literally, no clue where we were going to go. If I try to worry about that… if I try to think ahead to come up with a destination… it never works out well. The urge to do that comes from my fear of being heard as a silly idiot; I’m the host, I should know how this is going to work out. But each time I manage to rise above that fear, good things happen. Sometimes even great things.


Being a listener

It feels different to be a true listener. You fall into a different brain state—calmer, because you have no stray thoughts blooming in your head—but intensely alert to what the other person is saying. You lose track of time because you are actively following the point the other person has brought up, trying to comprehend what she means and if it relates to other points she’s brought up. Your brain may jump to conclusions, but you’re continually recognizing when that happens, letting it go, and getting a better grip on what the speaker really intends to communicate.

~ Indi Young from,

This agrees with my experience conducting interviews for the podcast. I’ve now spent several hundred hours intentionally practicing listening. I’ve learned a lot of different things in the process of interviewing and creating a podcast, but what I’ve learned about listening has proven by far the most valuable. Learning how to listen changes every interaction with another person.

Occasionally I wonder if I can sort out some small set of actionable advice from my experience thus far. I haven’t been able to yet, and I think it’s because the act of being able to objectively review your interactions is necessary. It’s one thing to have a conversation, but when it’s recorded and you can return later to review what you said, and what you thought you heard, that’s mind-altering.