This week I came across a concept called 'deep listening'. The term was coined by Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh, who explained in an interview that, "Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of another person. You can call it 'compassionate listening'. You listen with only one purpose: to help him or her to empty their heart."
The monk explained that, with this kind of listening, we stay silent even when the other person is saying things that are wrong, or full of anger: "If you want to help him to correct his perception, you wait for another time. For now, you don't interrupt. You don't argue. If you do, he loses his chance. You just listen with compassion and help him to suffer less. One hour like that can bring transformation and healing."
I love this idea. So often when a friend comes to you and wants to vent, we feel it is our job to give them advice. We're not really listening because in our heads we're trying to figure out a solution to their problem. Something wise to say. Something that will make our friend's pain stop. But what if we don't offer advice - we just let someone talk? Often, the gift of giving someone real attention is more helpful than anything we could say.
* Marianne Power is the author of helpmeblog.net