If we talk more, will we say more?
If we do more, will we get more accomplished?
If we move more quickly, will we get there sooner?

Judging by our actions, we seem to believe that multi-tasking, often mindlessly, is necessary to living our lives. While we are doing one set of things, we are thinking about what to do next. But what happens if we change that? What happens if we stop and listen?

I was taught that we have five senses: see, hear, taste, touch, smell. Now scientists, researchers and neurologists suggest that we have 14-20 senses, depending on what we choose to count. Each of these senses is a way of listening—our body listening inwardly and outwardly, to itself and the world.

Hearing is our body on autopilot, but listening requires a decision—the decision to pay attention. Being silent enables our bodies to use our senses more effectively by giving full attention to the moment and to those around us. Attention, focus, depth of experience, connection.

“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” Dalai Lama

In her Bank Street College Distinguished Alumni acceptance speech, lifelong educator Carol Hillman spoke about being with children.

“I felt I needed and wanted to be a good listener. I wanted to listen far more than I wanted to talk. I listened, not only to the words that the children said, but to the nuances in their voices … It was an entree into their emotional lives.”

What would happen if we spent more of our lives listening, and less time talking? How would the world be transformed if we lived within each moment, focusing on the many languages in which a child, a colleague, a friend, a stranger might speak to us? What would happen if we listened with all of our senses?

“Listening is an attitude of the heart, a genuine desire to be with another which both attracts and heals.” L.J. Isham

Our daughter, Amy Neugebauer, has created The Giving Square (https://www.thegivingsquare.org/) with a vision of a world where communities thrive because all people, especially children, are active, empathetic and impactful contributors to society. The methodology is about children focusing outside of themselves and applying their senses towards understanding the experiences of others. The Giving Square focuses on humanizing “others” and building empathetic connections between people. It’s about philanthropy, not only of resources, but of the spirit.

Upoma Mahbub, manager for global learning and collaboration at BRAC, targets the intimate nature, but global possibilities, of intentional focus and empathy when he poses the question: “Can empathy end poverty?” (http://blog.brac.net/can-empathy-endpoverty/). By providing emotional and psychological support through one-on-one mentorship, he and his colleagues are working to build the confidence and trust people need to create a sustainable livelihood—a way out of an experience of poverty. “Listening is an art that requires attention over talent, spirit over ego, others over self.” Dean Jackson

It’s easy to find the people who listen, people who are fully present. They know where to be and what to do. Visit Bonnie’s Global Café on the World Forum website to meet some of them. Jerry Parr and Eddy Nyarwaya listened to each other, and are now delivering cows and fruit trees to early childhood programs to provide nutrition and prevent stunting. Bishnu Bhatta heard children’s desire to play outdoors and get dirty; he and Gillian McAuliffe created World Forum International Mud Day. Come to the World Forum in Macao in April and meet Anne Sivanathan to understand what happened when she listened to children and families with special needs challenges and created a school. There are so many people who have found their life’s mission by listening.

Moment by moment, person to person, fully engaging all of our senses—we experience empathy and gain connection and understanding.
Want to change the world? Listen.

“The most basic of all human needs is to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” Ralph Nichols

-Article by Bonnie Neugebauer