Listening is a pervasive and significant act of conservation research and praxis, mattering greatly for the realisation of conservation agendas, not least its ambitions to be outward looking and inclusive in approach. Yet, the value and role of listening has been barely explored in a sustained and reflexive way.
This paper is a preliminary schematic of what it might mean to attend to the act of listening, set within the context of a larger field of listening scholarship as well as more specific manoeuvres to embed relational approaches into the study of people and nature interactions.
We explore what it means to 'listen well' within the context of conservation, highlighting the importance of recognising listening as a relationship and our positions and power within those relationships; the need to care for the relationship through respect and empathy; and the building of inclusive relationships of listening by attending to how space and time influences understanding.
We offer examples of how researchers and practitioners can create spaces for listening, illustrating our discussion with personal reflections about listening practices gained through our various conservation and research careers.
We provide approaches and ideas which help the reader—academic and practitioner—to both understand and articulate the value of listening in conservation and relational values of nature. We hope to inspire the wider use of listening-based approaches in conservation research and practice, and the recognition and support from senior managers and funders of what is needed to promote long-term and meaningful relationships between people and nature.