More on ‘Listening like a Cow’

I previously posted an excerpt from Mary Rose O’Reilly’s Radical Presence (1998) comparing active non-judgmental listening to ‘listening like a cow’.

I’ve just come across another passage on much the same theme that I wanted to share.  It’s from the Italian psychotherapist, Piero Ferrucci’s  Survival of the Kindest:

People who are suffering don’t need advice, diagnoses, interpretations and interventions. They need sincere and complete empathy—attention. Once they have the feeling that the other person is putting themselves in their shoes, they are able to let go of their suffering and head down the path of healing. Attention—being completely available—may well be the most coveted gift. We silently hope that someone will want to do that for us. Pure attention is given without judgement and without advice. Attention is a type of friendliness and the lack thereof is the worst kind of rudeness. Attention is the means that allows us to let friendliness flow. Anyone who can’t give others attention, will never be friendly. Attention gives energy, while the lack of attention takes it away.

This is the type of listening that is key to the practice of transformative mediation.

(H/T: Tricycle Editor’s Blog)

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One thought on “More on ‘Listening like a Cow’

  1. Kristine Paranica

    Thank you, Arnold. I love this quote.
    Here is a like one from Arthur Egendorf, Healing From The War, where he is talking about restoring one’s own sense of empowerment, strength, following the traumatic experiences of Vietnam.
    “So what empowers? Nothing we do or say, if we regard empowerment as work that must be done or a place to get to, as if the person were not already able and whole. What, then, is there to do? Essentially nothing. There is nothing more empowering than simply seeing others as already equipped to handle their lives…. People who cultivate this way of seeing can listen empathically to most pained accounts of suffering without losing the sense that the situation is somehow workable. … Bringing about this shift doesn’t happen by telling someone, “if only you would…” Giving instructions in this way calls up a relationship in which the listener is the expert, ignoring the speaker’s own wisdom. Similarly, reassuring people that they are fine or ok also fails to empower. Open, empathic listening with full acceptance of the speaker’s own unique wisdom and wholeness offer empowerment.”

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