A recent op-ed in The New York Times discussed the importance of listening to women in order to empower them.  That doesn’t mean responding to their innermost desires and emotions. Rather, empowering women means offering them an opportunity to make a living and support themselves.  But it doesn’t stop there. In this article, Marissa Wesely points out that “Putting these women at the center of designing strategies and programs for women’s empowerment will accelerate all our efforts to achieve gender equality.”

As the article continues, it focuses on the conversation of not “what” women want, but whether those of us willing to help are listening and learning from women about what they want.  This appears to be a lost art, and an area we do not focus on nearly enough.  Think about the last time you had a conversation with a friend. Did you really listen?  I mean intently. I don’t mean hearing what he or she said with the sole purpose of responding. I mean using both your ears and prioritizing their thoughts above your response.  That is true and deep listening.

Listening is such a fundamental yet powerful action.  However, many of us allow it to fall by the wayside as we talk over one another and attempt to be the loudest opinion in the room.  But as we shift our lives to one of making a real difference and celebrating the diversity of others, we can better serve those in need by using our ears and not our mouths.