Practicing Cultural Humility: To Be a Better Listener

‘Listen as if the speaker is wise’: an apprach often proposed in spaces of cultural competence and humility to be a better listener. Bringing patience, humility, and imagination, the phrase challenges people to a new style of listening. This phrase brings me back to my college professors, with whom I would listen so closely that I would recognize the nuance in their lessons.

Opportunities to be a guest in another culture, or listen to someone talk about their mental health, are rare — They are scenarios that are lacking in the lives of most people in the United States. With success, a bridge will be built to fill the previously present gap of empathy.

To recognize ourselves as a guest in one of these scenarios is an opporutnity to close our mouths, and open our ears. In other words, we must not mistake an opportunity to learn as a circumstance of entitlement to learn. To do so (and make the mistake) would involve taking up space through the questions of interest to us. Rather, we need to listen to the information that is present in the moment.

For some, this might mean “trusting the process” or “having faith”. To me, it’s about putting my anxieties to the side and following the lead of someone else, ultimately arriving at their truth.