Tag Archive: listening

i have been enjoying these conversations with Trevor Black from Swart Donkey. Back and forth five times on a topic with about 100 words a time. This is our third collaborative blog conversation, this time with a focus on Listening to the Listeners. i hope you will enjoy it.

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Trev: I loved the Free Speech board at my university residence. Most of the time it was empty, but occasionally it would burst into activity. Continue reading


The other day i was on the bus coming back from camp chatting to someone and they spoke a line that sends electricity through my body [and not in a good way].

i think we were talking about my blog and the other person said something about, ‘Giving them a voice.’

i can never ever give anyone else a voice. 

i can recognise and acknowledge and make space for and step out of the way of, and one thing i really try to do with this blog is share a platform for… but i can never GIVE anyone a voice. And it’s not semantics. It’s a subtle difference in speech which often carries with it a whole deeper seated world of meaning. And i think it’s often the small subtleties in our words and actions that can feed the larger mindsets and prejudices and this is an area we must target.

When i watched this video it demonstrated it much more powerfully than i could say it here and this is perhaps one of the most powerful videos you will see this year on two different fronts…

“The problem with speaking up for each other is that everyone is left without a voice.”

Let’s be aware of where we need to be quiet and step away from the mic and invite others to it so that we can start to hear the beauty and power of their voices. And let us commit to really start listening.

# Who speaks into your life? [do they all look and sound like you?]

# Who are you reading? [do they all look and sound like you?]

# Who are the people you have asked to mentor you? [do they all look and sound like you]

# Where do you get your news?

# Who are the people you follow on social media, you are friends with, you let inform you about world events? [do they all look and sound like you?]

Sh! i think someone else is about to speak… 


i just read a really helpful piece by Brene Brown titled, ‘Own our History. Change the story’ which is focused on Americaland which has what feels like a completely different story, when it comes to present race issues, in many ways, but also some remarkably similar overlaps.

Owning our stories is standing in our truth. It’s transformative in our personal and professional lives AND it’s also critical in our community lives. But we don’t think about history as our collective story.

Until we find a way to own our collective stories around racism in this country, our history and the stories of pain will own us.

Brene is writing into the story of Americaland and yet replace ‘US’ with ‘South Africa’ and so much of this still rings absolutely true:

Our collective stories of race in the US are not easy to own. They are stories of slavery, violence, and systemic dehumanization. We will have to choose courage over comfort. We will have to feel our way through the shame and sorrow. We will have to listen. We will have challenge our resistance and our defensiveness.

We have to keep listening even when we want to scream, “I’m not that way. This isn’t my fault!”

We have to examine and own stereotypes and prejudices. Every single one of us has them. It will be tough.

We will need to sit down with our children and talk about privilege. This means honest conversations about how we were raised and what we need to work on. No blaming or shaming, but truth. It’s not productive to deny how hard we all work for what we have, but it’s not honest to deny that many of us are afforded privileges based on who we are and what we look like.

Osheta Moore, a woman of colour in Americaland who i deeply respect had this amazing post to write after the tragic events of the Charleston shooting that occurred this past week. Some advice she gave to Americans which could be well extended to white South Africans, as we try to make sense of the violence and deep-seated hatred and racism that is prevalent across the nation, even 20 plus years after our first officially free and fair elections:

Today, I offer two responses that promote peace, lay a foundation for unity, and point to the love of Jesus as displayed on the cross.

I’m sorry.


I’m listening.

I’m sorry because we’re called to be peacemakers.  We are the ones on the front-line of violence with the sword of the Spirit- his words that bring life.

We’re called to be the ones to cry out, “Immeasurable worth!” when image-bearers are devalued.

We’re the voices of justice.

We’re the ones who draw in the sand and level the playing field.

As peacemakers, we’re tasked with identifying with our Prince of Peace who overcame our blood-thirsty enemy by shedding his own blood- selflessness and love flows from the cross and lies out our chosen path- humility.  “I’m sorry” tames the anger.  “I’m sorry” respects the pain. “I’m sorry”positions you as a friend and not adversary.

I’m listening because we’re called to be reconcilers.  Like Jesus reconciled us to the Father- it’s a painful process.  A denying process.  A humiliating process.  But a Kingdom process, nonetheless.  “I’m listening” says, “yes, I have an opinion and yes I have strong feelings, and yes this makes me feel more than a little helpless, but I’m going to press into this specific pain and listen.”

We need to own our history, and the fact that we are still very much walking through muddied waters that are filled with consequence, privilege, hurt, abandonment and more.

We need to very much be able to say, “I’m sorry” – not necessarily that ‘i did that thing’ but definitely that ‘i benefitted from that thing having been done’ and ‘i see how that thing being done has left a deep legacy of hurt for you and your family’. 

We need to listen and really hear the hurt and the stories, the needs and the desires and dreams – rather than assuming or presuming that we know or could ever understand living as a person of different colour or culture or story, we need to simply close out mouths and start to listen more, create more spaces for others to share their stories and experience so that we can begin to have a bit more of an understanding and start finding better ways of moving forwards together.

i know and i recognise more and more that i personally still have a long way to go and it is important for me to catch the racism and race-mindedness and prejudice in my own life.

i need to have more occasions of recognising and celebrating the diversity of the different people of my country and creating opportunities to engage more deeply and profoundly with others who are not like me.

i need to be braver in calling out racism where i see it and refusing to let friends and family especially [but also strangers where it feels safe to do so] get away with being subtly racist or prejudiced in what they say out loud. It is okay to say, “That is not okay!” in love but firmness.

And so much more. But let’s continue to step towards this. As we stop to listen and own up to our stories and grieve with those who are suffering or who have suffered, and as we seize opportunities to build deeper friendships with people who are not like us, so we will move closer towards being a country of true diversity and the “Us vs. Them” will be transformed into “Us and Them” and then hopefully disappear completely into a beautifully mosaiced and kaleidoscoped ‘Us’.


[For more thoughts and conversations around a better South Africa, click here]

Sometimes two sides of a vociferous argument can both be right.

A silly [but true] example could be someone from Americaland arguing that mayonnaise is horrible [i have lived here for three years and am still to find one i find overly edible]

Whereas, having tasted South African mayo, and especially the no name brand big jar version, i might argue that mayonnaise is incredible.

We would both be telling the truth in terms of our understanding of the word ‘mayonnaise’ simply because our practical and experiential understanding of the word is so completely different.

That is an inconsequential and silly example though as it is purely subjective on my part in terms of my feelings towards mayonnaise.

But hopefully it still conveys the message of the idea that two people might have a completely opposing and contradictory sounding argument that might still be completely true to each individual based on their understanding of the words being used to make the point


I have had two very frustrating [multiple] conversations recently with people arguing so strongly against me on some issue, while clearly having a very different understanding of the meaning/concept we were arguing about.

[And by “Conversations” I, of course, mean Facebook comment stream back-and-forths. Eye-roll!]

At times it felt somewhat like me saying, “I am a huge fan of Star Wars” and the protagonist responding with, “No, Star Trek is useless!”

Your point MAY OR MAY NOT be completely valid, but your opinion is completely unhelpful in this conversation where we are talking about completely different things [oh and if a Trekkie hears you assuming it’s the same as Star Wars they will beat. your. ass. up.]


A fine example of this comes up again and again with christianity and God and church-related things which is why so many followers of Jesus continually look for new names for themselves [christian, no believer, no follower, no child of God… etc] because sometimes we don’t identify with the people using the same name.

I touched on that in this post which looked at the idea of ‘The God you don’t believe in is not the same God i believe in.’ 

The extreme, and easy, example to use as reference in this is the Westboro Baptist i hesitate to call them church, but you know the ones whose website is GodHatesFags.com and who celebrate when soldiers die and who picket, well just about everything it seems.

When i meet someone who says ‘I don’t believe in God’ and i ask why and she says, ‘Oh because look at Westboro Baptist church and all the stuff they do. If that is the God you believe in, I don’t want to have anything to do with that.’ Well my response to her is , ‘What a coincidence. Me neither. I don’t want to have anything to do with a God that is characterised by hate and celebration of people doomed to hell.’

And it happens with church as well – i do love the broader definition of church being the people of God doing the things of God and seeing in His Kingdom on earth. But there are many church congregations and leaders that do things that make me want to step away and distance myself and when people say they don’t believe in church, there are a lot of times when i hear them on that.

Which is why i always challenge people to study Jesus – if you go face to face with Jesus and walk away disappointed and uninterested then that is a totally different story from you walking away from someone else’s depiction of God or someone’s [or a group of someones] depiction of the church.


RAPE CULTURE – i take a closer look at the idea and issue of ‘Rape Culture’ and what you can do to make a difference.

WHITE PRIVILEGEi take a closer look at the idea and issues related to ‘White Privilege’ and invite your engagement.

Women across the world and people affected by apartheid in South Africa [and other places of course] have been deeply affected and possibly the best thing we can do, or at least one of the first things, is to listen and try to understand so we can have any hope of moving forwards. But so many people seem to trip over the ideas that these terms can conjure up and so instead of sensitivity and listening and vulnerability and empathy, we are faced with defensiveness and reaction and blame and walls and a complete lack of listening.

Sometimes we really need to lace up another man’s boots and get the feel of them, before we can formulate any kind of helpful response at all.

Do you have the smallest bit of space in you to be able to listen to what is being said BEFORE you form your opinion and response?

Do you have the capacity to try and hear the entirety of an argument or story, even if it contains words or phrases that make you uncomfortable or want to react or lash out or defend?

As the person who is not the person who is/was marginalised, do you honestly believe that you can legitimately tell them how they feel or what they’ve been through? Or refuse any longer to give them a chance to do the speaking and telling us how it was/is and might be…


Rich and Cindy Erasmus

my friend, Rich Erasmus, has been married for seventeen years to his lovely wife Cindy, and has some nuggets of wisdom to share with us in the area of one way you can love your spouse better:

‘I would say one of the most important ways that I have “learned to love my wife better”, is through a technique I was introduced to during an “Imago” course.

Bottom line … I learned to listen to my wife better (never a bad thing).

Picture a husband and a wife sitting, facing each other with their knees touching.

The wife says “Hubby, I want to speak with you about you being at work when the kids and I really need you.”

Hubby replies “Wifey, I hear you saying that you want to speak with me about me being at work when you and the kids really need me.”

He then asks “Did I hear you correctly?”

If she says “Yes, you did”, then he asks the next question “is there more?”

… and so the conversation continues … until she says “that is all”.

It’s a conversation that is (at the end of the day) very one sided, in that the “sender” (in this case the wife) is determining the direction and the content of the whole conversation.

The “receiver” (hubby) has the humbling role of listening carefully (no … not justifying / explaining / contradicting / adding or interpreting), mirroring accurately (saying exactly what has just been said to him) and then inviting more explanation.

Let me admit that at first (if done properly) it is a super awkward tool … but man alive, it has really taught me a thing or 2 about genuinely listening to the heart of my wife, without belittling / undermining her.

I wish I could explain more (it is bigger than the above sample) … but I guess the bottom line is that effective communication often falls apart in a marriage purely because effective listening is a forgotten art.

If we are prepared to take the “weaker position” of just sitting, listening and asking for more explanation … I wonder how much more sympathy and empathy would enter the marriage … and out of that how much more love and connection.

Hope this helps someone.

Have a great day.

Rich E’

[to continue on to hear what Brett Fish has to say about Loving them in the way they best receive it, click here]

great words of marriage wisdom from my good friend Debbie [who once taught me how to play 30 Seconds, for the second time]

Realize that in the difficult stuff you are NOT against each other. Together, as a Team, face the issue. Don’t put it in between you. LISTEN to each others NEEDS. Actively love, in words, in actions, in selflessness, in putting their needs above your own. Can I just throw in there that Theran is awesome. Husband punt done. X

[Debbie Knighton-Fitt, married for 5 years]

to continue to the part with x in the number…

I don’t think tbV and i are there yet, in fact i know we’re not. It’s definitely a work in progress and there is definitely progress because we are working on it. We argue a lot better (in terms of nicer, friendlier, love-lier) than we used to when we were going out, but we can do even better. But there are definitely some principles we can share from what we do take care to do.

A good place to start is remembering the ‘Love does not keep a record of wrongs’ from the last note – this is such a huge key to growing thriving relationships – this argument we are having now is not the time and place to bring up every other time she did that thing before and how she ‘always is this’ or ‘always does that’ or ‘never does that’ and so on. Learn to focus on the issue at hand and leave the past in the past (although if you learn to deal with issues now then there are no past unresolved issues to deal with)

Argue the argument – try and figure out what the difference is – often what the argument becomes about is not the underlying issue and sometimes you both need to take a step back and look at it and figure out first what the underlying issue is (is it a trust issue, is it about looks or acceptance, is it about being undermined etc etc) – don’t get personal (name-calling), don’t get overly loud (try and focus on the issue and on seeing both sides of it and don’t resort to raising your voice in the hope that the loudest argument wins).

It is difficult in the moment (especially when feelings have been hurt as they inevitably will be, and usually unintentionally) but try and stop for a second and really try and hear or figure out where the other person is coming from and whether what they are saying is valid or not. An argument can quickly become about who is right and who is wrong in terms of ‘winning the argument’ and not so much about actually seeing what is going on. Sometimes both people can be ‘right’ and it is just a matter of different perspectives and so seeing it from hers can help sort the whole thing out.

Try and keep a grip on the bigger picture. It is never fun when tvb and i argue but i always know that she loves me and this is not about that changing or having changed. She may not particularly like me in this moment of argument, but her love for me is solid. If i can start in my mind from that place and reaffirming to myself that i completely love her then it is easier to take the argument as a smaller thing that can only have smaller consequences.

Run towards each other. This is a tough one and may need to be learned – especially for some of you with bad/difficult family backgrounds where conflict was not done well. Because the temptation when conflict arises can often be to run away – either to withdraw which doesn’t help get to the bottom of the argument – or physically to leave, probably slamming a door or pushing out a huge sigh or a nasty barbed comment and going away. But that doesn’t solve anything. Sometimes within an argument there may be a time where it will be good for both of you to take a step back and maybe be alone and think and sort what’s going on internally and then come back together, but don’t let leaving be a response. As hard as it can be, try and force yourself to stay in the moment, stay with this person you love and try and figure it out together. You staying speaks loads about the love that is there between the two of you.

LISTEN to the other person. I don’t know about girls but i think guys are pretty good at formulating the answer to the argument being presented before it has been presented or during and so it is easy to miss what the person is actually saying or the underlying issue if you are not listening. Both to what is being said and what is being spoken by body language etc etc (sometimes your woman can say everything is okay but the body language tells you it is not and you need to be able to address that and aware of what is happening.) Some of you are used to not listening to your significant person when she gets upset or frustrated and you need to start training yourself to be better at that.

to continue on to the final part of this part just click here

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