Listening Can Change the World.
Updated: Nov 23, 2021
Sure, it’s a bold claim. But we really believe it: listening can change the world.
Because listening connects us to each other, to ourselves, and to our humanity.
We all want to live “the good life.” We search for answers, for meaning, for validation that we’re spending this one precious life well. We work to discover our identity and how to place it in context of our surroundings.
Yet, we know that there is no handbook for this, no cookie-cutter answer for everyone. We each have to continue the endless work of uncovering what that “good life” looks like for ourselves.
“No man is an island entire of itself,” John Donne wrote in 1624. “Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”
We lean on each other to help define and guide our lives. We talk to our friends about what’s going on. We ask our family members about how they’ve lived and the decisions they made, the lessons they learned along the way. We turn to teachers, experts, and pundits for insights, for nuggets of information and advice that we can use in our own discovery process. We comb through history to see if those who came before us can offer anything valuable for our journey.
Because we know that we are each individually stronger and better prepared to live “the good life” when we’re connected to each other.
“Connection is why we’re here,” said Dr. Brené Brown, storyteller and research professor at the University of Houston, during her popular TED Talk. “It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. This is what it’s all about.”
We see the power of connection every day of our lives, through our relationships, through the support and love we receive from each other, and through the interactions we have with others in communities.
Yet, in order to connect with each other, Brown said, we have to allow ourselves to be seen for who we really are, for the imperfect person, for the fragile humanity we all carry within us.
And that comes with first connecting with ourselves. We all have a story to tell, but it takes courage, vulnerability, and support in order for each of us to recognize our own story and to share it with the world. Brown said that “to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.”
Finding that vulnerability and compassion can be difficult in a threatening world which incentivizes conformity. Listening to others tell their own stories of their own struggles and challenges, opportunities and successes, connections and relationships, can help us reflect on our own lives. It’s as if it holds a mirror up for others to see themselves for who they are.
That’s the power of listening. It helps us connect with ourselves, each other, and our humanity.
And podcasts are opportunities for that connection on a scale that’s difficult to replicate.
As human beings, we inherently can relate more to hearing someone speak than to words on a page. Podcasts allow us to listen to others and build connections with people who live in other places around the world, who come from a diverse array of backgrounds and experiences, bring different perspectives and ideas to the table, and who see the world in a unique way.
I can be in Atlanta walking my dog around the block and listen to a story about a tuba man in Nashville, or how another fellow Millennial navigated her early twenties, or hear normal people list ten things that scare them, or a conversation between a journalist and an author talking about their creative process and career trajectory, or hear a former student thank the teacher who changed his life.
For a few minutes, I can transport out of the mundane moment in front of me to another which holds that mirror up for me to catch my own reflection, to build those same kinds of powerful connections with the world around me. Listening and hearing can make me reflect back on what scares me or who my favorite teacher is or an experience I had years ago.
At the end of her TED Talk, Brown said that when we start listening to each other and connecting, “we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.”
Doesn’t that sound like a better world? It does to me.
Originally published on Ambedo Audio's blog on March 30, 2020.