This Year: Shut Up And Listen


Bucket lists are not really my thing, and I can’t tell you how many “resolution” blog posts I’ve seen over the last week. But it is a new year. And with that, I have a new word.

Last year, I rallied around a word to shape my goals. My word was DEPTH. I wanted to delve into my communities, to commit to projects, and draw closer to God.

This year, my word is LISTEN. I was inspired after finding this article that affirms so much of what I believe in — “The Joy Of Quiet” (New York Times, Dec. 29). Since my professional work is so active — I’m constantly writing, watching, posting, sharing — I also firmly believe in time to process, to reflect, to listen. There is such relief that comes with “white space” — a blank canvas, a quiet moment, the open road.  Listening offers the chance to observe, take in new ideas, learn from people with a variety of viewpoints.

Listen in the silence. How many times throughout the day am I interrupted, either by choice or not? Silence can be productive. Sometimes, in order to hear God more clearly, you need to turn down the volume in other areas. This couldn’t be more true for me than with digital noise. Jim Wallis writes that we all should practice more “people time” and less “screen time.” If I can maximize my computer time, I’ll have more time to invest in people and projects of value (and probably get more sleep, too!).

Listen for God and to God. Daily. To this extent, I want to further explore spiritual disciplines. Pastor Mark’s latest book is Circle Maker, which explores the power of prayer. God reveals more of himself in the quiet; he even says:

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

If praying — listening — is a spiritual discipline, then I definitely need to get into shape.

Listen to others.  I’m usually pretty excited about life, and I’m not afraid to show it — arms waving passionately, and my face contorted 7 million ways to express each and every thought. But I think that listening is an art, and it can be a very humbling experience. Listening reminds us that we are not the center of the universe.

Listen to stories — sad, happy and in-between. One of my favorite projects is The People’s District, run by Danny Harris. His niche has been recording and sharing the stories of average people all around him. In this same journalistic fashion, I also find it valuable to know a person’s story.With all my interactions this year, I want to ask myself: “what does that person have to teach me?”

I really, really liked Maggie Fox’s recent tweet:

“OH: My New Year’s Resolution is to shut up more.” << Really, this is a good one for pretty much all of us.

Now for good measure: a scene from Disney’s The Princess Diaries.

If you could focus 2012 around one word, what would it be? In what ways can being a better listener make you a better person? 

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About Meg Biallas

Thoughts From A DC Intern Turned DCist. A twenty-something goes beyond traditional tourism to achieve Washingtonian authenticity.
This entry was posted in DCist, social media, young professional and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to This Year: Shut Up And Listen

  1. Sarah Koci Scheilz says:

    Meg, what a good theme for the year. Especially in a PR and social media-oriented field, we’re all about the broadcast and if we ever listen, it’s with just one ear. A noble goal, my friend.

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  2. Kelly says:

    I really like this message, Meg. Nice touch to end with a classic scene from The Princess Diaries.

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  3. Meg Biallas says:

    I’ve actually thought of a few ways I can put this theme into action. This month, I’m fasting from background music, like listening to Pandora or the radio. It sounds simple, but I think it will be really effective in keeping myself focused — and not just “filling” the time and space. I’m also looking to do a personal retreat and there are few places in the DC area that are great getaways for that sort of thing.

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  4. Great post, Meg, and “listen” is definitely a word I’m considering for the year, although I’m still thinking about whether or not it captures what I want to do.

    LOVE the idea of a retreat. I did one in December with 11 other women and it was just incredible to have the time and space for both reflection and conversation. We all learned so much and returned with fresh eyes and hearts. I highly recommend it!

    We went to a Quaker retreat area, which I think is particularly conducive to doing a silent retreat (if you’re considering that). Our location even had a table for people who were embracing silence to sit at during meals. I’m considering going back on my own to do the silence so I can listen to myself.

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    • Meg Biallas says:

      Thanks, Michelle! I’ve talked with several friends about a one-word theme for the year. One friend told me her word was “daring” and I asked her why. Just that simple discussion helped both of us examine how to frame our year. Thanks for the suggestion of a retreat; I’m actually considering one for early in 2012. I think the Quakers have the right idea!

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  5. Robin Mohr says:

    Hi Meg, I found your blog through the links on Beth Kanter’s blog and I really appreciate your posts on social media, but what moved me to comment was this post. I too have usually had a one word theme for the year. I wrote about it on my blog last month, Wisdom for 2012. This year I chose four words but it really comes down to one: discipline. The personal discipline to do the boring things and the scary things in my job and at home.

    I actually am a Quaker. I also struggle with the balance between background noise, which is external, and internal noise, which can interfere even more with hearing God or your own creative voice. I find it takes time to let them both settle until I can really hear myself think, or let God speak to me directly. The Pendle Hill Retreat Center outside of Philadelphia is lovely. So is the Arboretum in D.C. Or any big church that’s open during the day where you can sit anonymously, and walk the periphery, and stare at the imagery/woodwork/floor until the surface dissolves and something transcendent takes over.

    About eight years ago, I wrote an essay called Silence is like Fluoride. I still think we need daily short applications of silence and occasional deep treatments. It sounds like you’re ready for depth.

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    • Meg Biallas says:

      Robin – Thanks so much for your thoughtful words here. (I’m now following your blog!). I’m glad you found this particular post about solitude, listening and rest. I will definitely look into the Pendle Hill Retreat Center; it sounds lovely. Sometimes a change of place results in a change of perspective. We need simply to allow ourselves that.

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