Do You Know How to Listen for Understanding?

By August 21, 2020

Conversations with our closest loved ones about topics we may not agree on can be difficult. And while we never begin these kinds of conversations with the intent to hurt someone, sometimes that is how it can end up. But is there really a way to discuss difficult subject matters with our family and friends without fear of shutting them down?

Rev. Tom McDermott has been co-leading an event here at FUMCFW called Crafting Difficult Conversations with Darryl Parker, his longtime friend, Data Scientist, FUMCFW member, and mindfulness expert. Together, they’ve been working with members of our church community on how to “craft” these difficult conversations with friends and family around the polarizing themes of our day.

For the next two weeks, however, they’ve invited Fort Worth native, Master Facilitator and Consultant Estrus Tucker to lead a two-week workshop called Listening for Understanding on Mondays August 24 and 31 at 7:00 pm via Zoom.

Estrus was born and raised in Como and attended Como High School until 1971 when Fort Worth desegregated the schools and closed all but one of the four black high schools. He graduated from Western Hills. While in the Army, Estrus attended Chaminade College in Hawaii and, later, the University of Texas at Arlington. He is president and CEO of Liberation Community Inc. and on the national board of Courage and Renewal. His work specializes in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training and FUMCFW is proud to welcome him for this two-week workshop.

Estrus speaks slowly, and with intention, careful detail being paid to each word he speaks.

“My mother is the most influential person on ‘my way of being,’” he says, “I always felt very heard by her. There is something powerful about feeling heard or being heard.”

Estrus carefully honed and practiced this super-power given to him by his mother and his upbringing in a church community and neighborhood where he felt welcome and affirmed. “You are emboldened because people invest their attention in you,” he says. “Early on, I experienced feeling heard, so it made sense to me to offer that to others.”

It can be hard work having these conversations, and creating understanding is not always easy. By nature, most people not like to be uncomfortable, and we avoid this feeling when and if we can. “But,” Estrus says, “just because it is hard doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. Though this path of understanding has a longer trajectory and is sometimes hard, this path is the hopeful one.”

Estrus says that by delving into the uncomfortable, we can begin to untangle the mystery of deeper — mindful — connection and uncover the reconciling love of a gracious God.

“In this workshop,” Estrus adds, “I hope to offer you some tools, ideas, and awareness — but then you’ve got to take that raw material and ‘enter the arena’ and craft the conversations. A significant amount of next steps will be left in your hands. Use the act of listening during a difficult conversation to affirm and strengthen that relationship. Don’t persuade, don’t advise. What you can do is model the kind of advocacy of what being a human being looks like. Remember, listening with understanding is an intentional act of love.”

By simply allowing space for hard conversations, we open ourselves up to true moments of holy connection. That seemingly simple act of listening opens the door for deeper questions and empathy instead of judgment and division. It brings us closer to experiencing the reconciling love of God in those moments of unifying difference. “If we want changes in our world,” Estrus says, “we need to do a lot more listening.”

Tom, Darryl, and Estrus invite all with the desire to enter into this dialog, learn to suspend outcome and judgement, and seek connection and understanding to join in the conversation this Monday, August 24 and August 31 at 7:00 pm on Zoom.

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