Krista Tippett Explains The Secret To Listening Well

Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and the Art of Living by Krista Tippet is a collection of her thoughts and experiences on five of what she calls the "raw materials" of the human life. The contents of the book are not composed of her insights alone, but also the perspectives of people who had made an impression her over the years.

One of the concepts she writes about is that of listening. As a master listener herself, she defines listening as an art. She writes:
Listening is an everyday social art, but it’s an art we have neglected and must learn anew. Listening is more than being quiet while the other person speaks until you can say what you have to say. I like the language Rachel Naomi Remen uses with young doctors to describe what they should practice: “generous listening.” Generous listening is powered by curiosity, a virtue we can invite and nurture in ourselves to render it instinctive. It involves a kind of vulnerability—a willingness to be surprised, to let go of assumptions and take in ambiguity. The listener wants to understand the humanity behind the words of the other, and patiently summons one’s own best self and one’s own best words and questions. Generous listening in fact yields better questions. It’s not true what they taught us in school; there is such a thing as a bad question. In American life, we trade mostly in answers—competing answers—and in questions that corner, incite, or entertain. In journalism we have a love affair with the “tough” question, which is often an assumption masked as an inquiry and looking for a fight.
For me listening without assumption is key. There is a tendency for us to tune out when hearing other people talk, especially if we think we know what they are going to say. This leads to a situation Krista describes where we wait with answers instead of actually listening to the person talking to us.

Becoming Wise is full of insights such as above. Almost every sentence and paragraph are crafted to help, to admonish, to and enlighten. Becoming Wise isn't a book to rush through. It is not a light read by any stretch of imagination. It is deep and possesses tangled paths that can lead the reader to delightful places of the mind and spirit. Becoming Wise is for anyone serious about living meaningfully and on their own terms. I believe Becoming Wise it is a treasure that would endure for a long time.

Many thanks to Penguin Press for review copy.

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