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  • Gary Borland

#16 Slow Down to Speed Up?

Going fast and going slow both have their place. But what happens when we choose to slow down to listen?

Many years ago at Vienna Airport, I saw a huge billboard with the words: “If you want to go fast, go alone; If you want to go far, go together”. I was initially struck by how much I liked it. But after some reflection, I realised that I liked the idea more than putting it into practise.

Working with others and doing things together seemed quite natural in a work environment, but when it came to my personal life, I really didn’t like the idea of ‘going together’. Better to go alone, because then nobody will really see me for who I am. If they knew the real me then maybe they wouldn’t like me, maybe they’d judge me and so on. In reality, those were justifications to myself about why it was safer not to let people really get to know me. I had made it about other people, when all along, it was actually about me. I didn’t really like me, so why would anyone else?

It took a number of years to unpack and unwind the story I had created about myself. But I was very fortunate. A couple of people I knew dared to care. Dared to ask me uncomfortable questions and cared enough to hang around to listen to the answers. To be really listened to is a gift. To be asked questions and listened to without being offered quick fixes or answers is priceless.

David W. Augsburger wrote: ‘Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable’. So many people want to be listened to. So many people want to be loved. As we encounter people in our day to day lives, perhaps the greatest gift they will have that day is when they encounter YOU and they experience being listened to. For some, it’s entirely possible that it’s the first time they’ve ever been really listened to. And for some, it will be a profoundly moving experience.

Each of us has the power to transform the life of another person – by listening to them. We carry the capability around with us, and with it, potentially life changing experiences for those we encounter. Going fast has its place. Going fast together has its place. But so too does slowing down. Slowing down to listen – to really listen. And as well as experiencing being listened to, it’s quite likely that the person you’re listening to will experience being loved.

Next time you meet someone – try doing nothing else but listening to them.


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