Listening to each other


To the Editor:

I could not help but notice the connections between your lead story (“58,000 Cups of Coffee fuels Synod conversations”) and the column by Kathy Berken (“Re-Thinking those well-intentioned comments”) in the Feb. 10 issue.

As the pope calls us into a deeper experience with listening to each other, and at the margins, we should heed the advice that Berken quotes from Emma Cameron about paying closer attention to what we say when someone is expressing pain or sorrow.

Berken points out that we often try to comfort others by telling our own story. Our intentions might be to demonstrate that we can relate to what the other person is going through. However, in the process, we often interrupt the other person’s story. For example, Katie tells John that her child is sick, and instead of fully listening to Katie’s story, John starts telling her a story about when his kids were sick. This is called “hijacking” the other person’s story. We all do it (myself included). If you watch human behavior in social situations, you will see many examples of this. While our intentions may be good, the results can be harmful. Instead of showing empathy, we are being self-centered.


As we try to go deeper into our spiritual conversations with each other, we might heed Berken’s advice: “It’s more loving to simply acknowledge the person’s plight, recognize their emotions, and offer a tissue or glass of water. ‘This must really hurt,’ is a sign of compassion.”

Dan Ebener

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