Lent Series

Listening Is Contagious


Saturday, March 27, 2021

Listening Is Contagious

by Scott Stoner

Good listeners are created as people feel listened to. Listening is a reciprocal process—we become more attentive to others if they have attended to us. —Margaret J. Wheatley

Two things we have learned from our experience of the coronavirus are just how interconnected we all are with each other, and how easily and quickly a virus can spread.

These two learnings can also apply to the transmission of our emotional states. Have you been part of a group where the leader was chronically negative and critical? I would guess the rest of the group’s morale and spirit eventually became negative and deflated, as well. Compare that to how good it feels to be part of a group in which the leader is positive and supportive. These are but small examples of how strongly our moods and spirits can affect one another.

I coached youth soccer when our kids were growing up, and I remember playing several games against a team whose coach was a screamer, always yelling critical comments at his players. It is not surprising that the play-ers on that team yelled at each other, and at the referee, more than any other team we ever played. Again, the spirit of the leader was contagious.As Margaret Wheatley says in the quote above, “Listening is a reciprocal process—we become more attentive to others if they have attended to us.” It turns out that listening is also contagious.

Good listening invites good listening. If someone does not even pretend to listen to us, the chances are minimal that we will make much effort to listen in return. When it comes to listening, the choices we make are contagious. The question is, what kind of listening are we sharing with others?

Making It Personal: What do you think of the idea that listening is con-tagious? Can you think of a recent example in which you noticed that listening (good or bad) was contagious? What kind of listening do you think you are sharing with others?

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