Are You Listening?

Society has taught us to listen with the wrong part of the body. You are supposed to listen with your ears. You spend chunks of each day listening to your eyes. We have been listening to the part of our body whose sole job is to see. It is the first tool we learned to judge with. It is the blacksmith of our prejudice and bias.

It is all about the “too’s”…a different type of terrible “too’s”.

Too sick.

Too drunk.

Too long out of housing.

Too traumatized.

Too abused.

Too many evictions.

Too forgotten.

Too resistant to change.

Too damaged.

Too street involved.

Too long since they connected with family.

Too weak.

Too crazy.

Too many blemishes on a credit history.

Too high.

Too broken.

Too long since they took their medication.

Too dumb.

Too injured.

Too smelly.

Too many criminal charges.

Too high risk.

Too lazy.

Too resistant.

Too entrenched with how they live their life.

Too young.

Too old.

Too many people in the family.

Too long out of work.

Too many issues at once.

Too far gone.


Bringing each other down is getting us nowhere fast. In this broken world, the only currency that holds any value is hope. Do you believe that every person/family can be better than they are right now? Do you offer the warmth that comes from the furnace of your heart? Do you create slow and deliberate ones for every person that has been burned by the fast ones? Do people have to strain to believe you and the possibility of a future?

I want a lifetime ban on giving up and embracing the myth that my eyes try to tell me. Eyes lie. They see the symptoms. They see the carnage. They never hear the story. Eyes participate in the story of slow deaths. Eyes determine some people are unwanted. It is eyes that deceive intellect and stunt the growth of compassion. Eyes are judge and jury whenever allowed to be. How many times have you listened to the judgment formed by your eyes?

Eyes see the present. They are incapable of hearing a person’s dreams or understanding their potential. Eyes are not listening.

So we need to enter into relationship with people. We need to ask the questions that help us understand the present and guide us to the future. Given none of us owns a time machine (that works), we need to spend less time asking people about their past and asking more questions about their future. We need to open up the conversation that gets us into a place of understanding so that empathy is possible. Eyes do not have the capacity to express empathy. We need to listen to be capable of that.

I am working on this every day of my life. Maybe you are too?


About Iain De Jong

Leader. Edutainer. Coach. Consultant. Professor. Researcher. Blogger. Do-gooder. Potty mouth. Positive disruptor. Relentless advocate for social justice. Comedian. Dad. Minimalist. Recovering musician. Canadian citizen. International jetsetter. Living life in jeans and a t-shirt. Trying really hard to end homelessness in developed countries around the world, expand harm reduction practices, make housing happen, and reform the justice system. Driven by change, fuelled by passion. Winner of a shit ton of prestigious awards, none of which matter unless change happens in how we think about vulnerability, marginality, and inclusion.

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