The North American Interfaith Network (NAIN) gathering in Phoenix, Arizona, last July included a visit to a Hindu temple where a meal was shared along with questions, stories, and new friendships, all depending on everyone listening very carefully to each other.
Respectful communication is at the heart of all interfaith gatherings. We know that it is one of the most important components for building relationships of peace and harmony across faith traditions and belief systems. The focus of this essay is on the importance of the art of listening in interfaith dialogue and practices that support us in becoming more effective listeners.
If we think of speaking and listening as two of the major elements of communication, most often speaking is thought of as the more powerful role; it certainly gets the most attention. My experience is that the role of listening is even more powerful, although one seldom recognized or understood. For example, we often hear someone comment “That was a really powerful speech.” I’ve never heard anyone say: “That was a really powerful way to listen.”