The greatest gift is the gift of listening. Not only do the ears need to be engaged and the mind alert — the gift of listening demands much more. It requires an open and abundant heart.

In this frenzied, multitasking, sound-byte society, being an active listener is perhaps one of the hardest skills to acquire and to do well. How do we know that we really hear what someone is saying? Can we take the time to shut out our self-centered thoughts and calm the urge to fill the silence with an instant response? Are we respectful of the hopes, fears and desires expressed by others? Can we find ways to convey the spirit and skill of being an active listener?

In my opinion, I think we can if we consciously bring an open and abundant heart to every conversation. To offer an abundant heart is to find ways to limit judgmental attitudes, avoid scripted answers and hasty responses. Offering an abundant heart requires empathy to hear, patience to reflect, and love to understand. The greatest gift of listening comes not with a huge price tag, but rather is free to all who want to take the time and make the effort. When one listens with an abundant heart, one encourages another to speak with an abundant heart, thus opening the pathway to a more harmonious and compassionate world for all — one listener at a time.

Sign up for my monthly e-newsletter at and get my latest thoughts on women and philanthropy direct to your inbox. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter