The Art of Compassionate Listening

The Art of Compassionate Listening

The Art of Compassionate Listening. Listening is both an art and a gift. Listening has the power to transmute pain into love.

Years back after miraculously surviving a terminal illness I left the corporate world behind. I started a nonprofit food Pantry to Feed the pets of families in need. While we had volunteers to deliver the food I enjoyed bringing it myself some days, just to get to sit with and spend time with the people we served and their pets. We would just sit on the porch or in the front room and talk.

I am somewhat ashamed to say that when I was in the corporate world I listened little, and talked much. I gave a lot of direction and made a lot of decisions. But in my new service life, I spent time with people and listened, more than talked. I listened to their stories. Their ups and their downs. Their dreams and their nightmares.

When I would be heading out they always asked me to come back. To come back and sit a minute with them and talk. They said it made them feel so much better about themselves and made them start thinking again about things they could do. Things they gave up before, but now seemed, well, maybe just possible again.

After a couple of years of meeting with people. Rich, poor, and in between I realized that the one thing we all have in common is we want to be heard. More than want … we need to be heard. And we need to be seen and touched and made to feel alive. I realized that just listening to someone did many of these things. It made them feel better. Better about themselves, and better about the world.

In this time of COVID-19 and isolation from one another, we should keep these universal human needs in mind. We are not meant to be separated from our fellow souls.

I also realized that I was not only a leader, and a talker as I was in Corporate life, but I was a listener. I came to see that listening was my gift. I never thought of the simple act of listening as an art, But, it is. Listening is an art, almost today a lost art. Conscious, intent, and loving listening have the power to transform lives.

It took a very close encounter with death to change my life. I used that to start a nonprofit to change lives. I never realized however that sitting with people, being kind, patient, and just listening to them could change lives as well.

Truth is if we want to change the world we have to start by changing ourselves first. And then to change others we sometimes don’t have to do more than just compassionately, intently and with all the love you have within you, sit quietly and just listen to them.

Listening has the power to transmute pain into love.

Listening transforms lives. Your listening allows someone in pain to be heard. And when heard, you can relieve their pain and transform it to love. And, with love in their hearts, they can now transform themselves.


Steven Monahan is a former fortune 100 executive. Twice death survivor, radical & joyful Living teacher, author, licensee, and creator of TEDxDupreePark, and philanthropist.

TEDx Dupree Park – Woodstock, GA – photo by PhotoJack.net