By Thich Nhat Hanh
Listening to our own suffering, our own fear, our own anger is the first thing we have to do as a person and as a community. After that, when we have some insight about the roots of our fear, our anger, our despair, then we can listen to other groups of people.
While listening, you have to practice mindful breathing in order to keep calm, to maintain compassion in you, because that practice of deep listening is also called the practice of compassionate listening.
Compassionate listening means to listen with one purpose: helping the other side, the other person to express himself or herself and to get relief. You don’t listen to criticize. You just listen in order to give the other person a chance to empty his heart; to empty her heart in order to get relief.
When you can listen like that for one hour to the other person, he or she will get relief. During the whole time of listening, you keep your practice of mindful breathing, in order to maintain compassion. If these two things do not exist during the time of listening, your listening will not have a good effect.
Even if the other side says things that are full of wrong perceptions, blaming and judgment, you are still capable of listening with compassion. This is extremely important. And that is possible only with the practice of mindful breathing and the maintaining of compassion during the whole time of listening. We have to train ourselves for at least one week in order to be able to do it and to help our beloved one get relief.
When you are the person who speaks, you practice gentle speech, loving speech. You have the right, and you have a duty to tell the other group of people, the other person, what is in your heart. But you have to use the kind of language that can convey your feelings, that can convey your insights, your suffering to the other person; namely, the language of love and kindness.
If you do not use the language of love and kindness, then you touch off the energy of anger and hatred in the other person, and he or she will not be able to listen to you. That is why it is very important to practice loving speech, gentle speech.