Listening is something we do every day, but how many of us are good at it?

At both of Anna Deavere Smith’s presentations on Tuesday, she encouraged the audience to listen–really listen–to people. This act of intentional listening allows us to engage each other in meaningful conversations.

Smith creates her art from interviews where she asks simple questions and allows a person to talk and express their feelings without interruption. Her interactions with interviewees go beyond the superficial and enable her to see the world from another’s point of view.

Using Smith’s example, we can get past our routine conversations and hear what our friends say, thus understanding their feelings and perspectives.

To do this kind of listening, Smith says, a person must go into a conversation without an agenda or preconceived conclusions about what the other will say. We must enter into the interaction open to spend time with the other and pay attention to the words being said as if each word really mattered.

We have to want to listen in order to really listen.

This talk about listening makes me wonder what our community could be like if everyone listened intentionally to each other. What would empathy for our enemies do for us during conflicts?