The way I write this blog is I choose a word or phrase that has been speaking to me. It’s a word that continues to pop up all around me. For this week the word listening keep cropping up everywhere. To listen means to give one’s attention to a sound, to take notice of what someone says, to make an effort to hear something according to Dictionary.com.
Yet how often do we really listen to each other? How often are we only kinda, not really listen to what someone else is saying because we are gearing up to say what we want to say or thinking about what is going on in our lives?
I feel too often, too much, there is too little listening going on.
Being an trained therapist, an LCSW-R, a huge part of what happens in therapy is I need to stand in someone else’s shoes, to absorb what they are saying to understand what they are feeling. I need to get their “feels”. There have been times, probably more that I realize, that my focus was to speak my pearls of wisdom and guidance to help activate their personal power and self worth. I superficially listened in preparation to say my stuff. What I have learned is that when I acted in that manner in my relationship with my clients, I was missing a whole lot. I also realized too often, too much in my personal relationships when I listened with the intent of saying whatever the heck I wanted to say it created gaps and barriers in my relationships. I am not sure when this happened, yet when I had the eye opening moment of whatever it was I was going to say was really not necessary, and if I did not say it then it could wait, it helped me become a better listener.
My time will come to talk about whatever I was going to say. If it doesn’t it can wait, or even not be said at all. In uncomfortable, courageous conversations when the other person is speaking if I am not completely listening to what the other person is saying why I am having the conversation? When I took the approach of being in a conversation to listen and hear what someone is saying and not make it about me a whole new world opened up.
Being a good listener means you focus on what the other person is saying. Your headspace, your focus, is on what the other person is taking about. Your focus is NOT on what you want to talk about. If you go into conversations with the idea you are going to learn something new (because you probably will), ask questions about what they are talking about, and use reflective language to let them know your hear what they said, that is active listening. In a VeryWell Mind article on May 25, 2020 some of the other features of active listening is that you listen from a nonjudgmental, neutral, safe space. You ask questions, reflect what you heard, ask of clarification, and summarize. The article also states that the purpose of active listening is to earn the trust of others and understand the situation.
I overhear and experience people who are not listening. They are not. Nope. Yet think about the connections we could build when another person is talking we give them our undivided attention. We listen and learn about whatever is going on in someone else’s life that they want or need to talk about. When someone else is talking it is all about them. Yes all about them.
I have found by being in the moment when someone else is speaking and focused only on what they are saying, I feel more peaceful in the moment, even when some difficult topics or experiences are being talked about. Being absorbed with what someone is talking about takes the pressure off and gives me more clarity. When I am listening, truly listening, my responses and reactions are more genuine. It is a powerful experience.
I had experiences where I felt completely heard and listened to. It is an incredible validating moment that another person understood me and all my humanness.
Do I have some people in my life whose tendency is talking mostly about themselves? Yes I do. When I am describing something occurring in my life they will bring what I have said back to them with no acknowledgement towards me? Yep. These experiences gave me an opportunity to work on me. After some personal reflection I came to some new conclusions. I do have a few friends who bring everything back to them, so I have learned to expect this. I evaluate what I am talking about to see if it is really essential for me to talk about it or could I let it go. In conversations I realized I had choices when I felt I was not being heard and it was important to me. I say what I am saying again. I have asked people “what did I say because I feel like you are not listening to me”. There have been enough times the other individual was so in their headspace they did not have a clue to what I had said. When someone calls to talk I put my electronics away, because if I don’t I will be distracted and not focus on the conversation. I will not be listening.
I have been in the presence of a few individuals that when I was talking with them it feels like the world slipped away. It is such a beautiful experience. I have put effort into being a better listener so I can give the same experience to others. In doing this I feel more fulfilled as a person. My relationships have become deeper and richer. I have had some cool conversations with strangers when I am out and about. My changes and my choices have improved my clarity and communication. I now truly listen just to listen.
Most wonderful, valued person take a moment to reflect on yourself and your conversations with others. Do you give yourself the gift of listening, really listening to others in your life? If not today is a GREAT day to start!
“Sometimes we need someone to just listen. Not to try and fix anything or offer alternatives , but just to be there to listen. An ear that listens can be medicine for a heart that hurts” Steve Maraboli
May your listening be with you💜