#Cultivating Meaningful #Relationships through #Compassionate #Listening with Michael Gingerich and Tom Kaden of Someone To Tell It To

As humans, one of our greatest longings is to be heard. Through listening, we develop a certain connection to people around us in ways only possible through human interaction. These bonds help find solutions to most of the problems facing humanity. 

The thing is, there are some issues that we can’t handle by ourselves. Yet, even our own immediate family, who might be our strongest support system, may not be able to help make sense of what we are going through in some areas of life. This is when we need SomeoneTo Tell It To, a non-profit organization striving to cultivate meaningful relationships through compassionate listening and trains others to do the same. They will listen to anyone, anywhere around the world.

Michael Gingerich is passionate about fostering relationships of depth and about listening with the intention to everyone he meets, both professionally and personally. He strives every day to be compassionate, gracious, generous, empathetic, and fully present wherever he is. He holds fast to a faith that teaches unconditional love, kindness, and humility. His heroes include Henri Nouwen and Fred (Mr.) Rogers. He finds the work and words of Dr. Brene Brown, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and the Dalai Lama to be foundational.

As co-founder/co-CEO Tom Kaden’s hope is to create and foster relationships with his co-workers that are deep, authentic, genuine, compassionate, and caring, helping them be their very best selves. Essentially, practicing and cultivating what the organization of Someone To Tell It To preaches: everyone has a voice, everyone matters, and that we all need someone to tell it to in our lives. He wants to serve rather than be served and listening is the most important way of putting others’ needs ahead of his own.

In this episode, Michael and Tom share their life experiences of sacred, moving, meaningful, and beautiful stories of life and death in the people they listened to. That even in the midst of life’s difficult realities, people find consolation through compassionate listening. Essentially, share a message to everyone that regardless of who you are or what has happened, the act of kindness when done in love will always go a long way. And they underscore the fact that listening as a  transformative force is a solution the world faces. 

“One of the things that we would like to start with people is to tell them and show them that everyone needs and we’ve already said it that everyone needs and wants to be heard. That is the name of our organization, it comes from a fundamental human need. And if we understand that and believe that we will begin to respect people more, will pay more attention to them, we will realize that we have more in common than we have that separates us, that we’re all human.

– Michael Gingerich


Listen In Notes:

02:09 – Tom’s challenging time when he needed someone to tell it to. Listening is considered one of the fundamental needs of a human being.

04:20 – The life-changing experience of having someone to tell it to. How did it form a seed that transformed other people’s lives?

07:17 – Recounting that very moment of realizing that other people also need relationships of depth and intimacy. 

09:10 – How did the idea of putting a  non-profit organization come about? 

12:23 – How does the business model reflect the goals of the non-profit organization?

14:44 – Number of people they listened to and listening to anyone for whatever reason.

15:17 – Recounting that sacred moment and sacred relationship where their work impacted both other people’s lives and their own.

18:28 – Listening can also be in written words, not spoken

19:58 – Creating a safe space for people to listen to. How to let someone talk without fear of being judged?

22:22 – Why do they send out teams in pairs to listen to something painful and profound?

26:20 – How does listening look like when working with organizations with a lot of stakeholders to take into consideration

30:04 – Creating a better work environment for everyone.

33:31 – The need to allow every side to tell their story

36:11 – Tips you can consider when creating  a safe and comfortable listening space for someone you listen to

37:48 – Talking about his upcoming book titled “In the Midst of Life.” How in our everyday life experiences, there are always things dying around us (not just life), and it is all about coming to terms with this reality.

40:51 – Looking back at some of the most sacred and meaningful listening stories that they’ve had.

45:03 – Relating one beautiful story of how their work in listening has transcended across people of all races and all religions.

48:57  One inspiring message from listening to stories

50:45 – How you can donate to their organization. Click here: someonetotellitto.org

Key Takeaways:

“We’ve found over time that all of us truly do need that safe space, that safe person to whom  we can tell all and who will simply be with us.” – Tom Kaden

“What we see and hear most of all, through people listening to people is that they are lonely, and disconnected. We’ve each felt that too in various times, and places. And to have someone who recognizes that we have found what we’ve needed in one another and that affirmation was, just really confirming and wonderful, as well as the desire to help other people find it too because we knew that if we were feeling that there are a lot of other people who are feeling that need, as well.” – Tom Kaden

“We never wanted our mission to be transactional in nature; we always wanted to be relational. And so relationships take time and energy and investment…We had this desire just to truly serve people who were being marginalized and forgotten, about people who were being overlooked. – Tom Kaden

“Sometimes people, when they write, are actually more open and honest than when they speak.” – Michael Gingerich

“’A surefire way to get someone to talk is to ask them a question. But don’t frame your questions as a form of judgment.”   – Tom Kaden

“One of the ways that we define listening is to know and to be known as we all want to be known. And we want to know others. And so if we can ask questions that draw people out and create that safety where people aren’t threatened in any way, people want to divulge about the truth of their lives and the deeper things that are going on, the deeper matters of the heart.”   – Michael Gingerich

“We want to help work cultures be more caring, and compassionate and kind, to be fun, and really try to foster this environment that is enjoyable, that you could work towards common goals and objectives, and work hard. But you can do it in a way where you’re finding a lot of satisfaction.”  – Michael Gingerich

“People don’t always talk to you to hear your side of the story more often, people want to tell their own side of the story without interruption.” – Michael Gingerich

Just listen to others as you want them to listen to you.”  – Michael Gingerich

“Think about how you want to be treated in conversation. We all want to be treated with dignity and respect and vow to treat that person you’re listening to in the same way. “ – Michael Gingerich

Notes or Mentions: 

  • “In the Midst of Life” – A yet to be published book about coming to terms with the reality of life and death. Watch out for it!

Connect with Michael Gingerich and Tom Kaden:

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