I still remember one of my teachers telling my elementary school classmates and me the difference between “hearing” and “listening.”

“Listening means you’re paying attention,” she explained patiently.

At the time, the implication was that listening meant paying attention to the instructions she gave us, her unruly class. But as an adult, I’ve learned that listening often means paying attention without knowing what it is you’re listening for. Listening can mean deliberately seeking silence so you can greet the thoughts that usually hide behind your busyness and distractions. It can mean paying attention to what your friend is saying—and, furthermore, how she is saying it. It can mean spending time with a work of art, a poem, or a song, simply open to being moved by beauty.

This week at Verily, we’re reflecting on listening. A woman isolating alone during the pandemic writes about becoming more introspective in her solitary pursuits. A piece about Instagram offers ways to notice whether our use of the platform is draining or life-giving. An author who has struggled with her relationship with food reflects on learning to listen to her body. And an article about direct communication can help us manage healthy confrontation and boundaries, so that we can make it easier for others to listen to us.

How do you strengthen your listening skills, and what have you learned by doing so? Tell us here