So, I can be a lousy listener – it’s true. I have the best intentions, and I hear what’s being said, and I even have something of value to offer or advise a lot of the time, but that doesn’t make the best Listener, per se. It takes real work to just listen well. It takes stepping back and out of your mind, out of your habits of thinking one step ahead, or of how to offer something to the conversation, or of how to put that positive spin on everything. It takes a little shutting up. And a lot of allowing with the intention of meeting someone right where they are at. With maybe a touch of some empathy – and often – (here’s the hard part for fixers, helpers, guiders, leaders, advisers) – nothing more. Not even your voice or your opinion or your story or your take on it all. Just your presence. Your ear. Your heart and sincerity. Just You allowing that person to be themselves out in the open to a friend.
Here’s a little poem I stumbled on once from someone who wants to be heard… I use it as a reminder from time to time:
When I ask you to listen to me and you start giving advice
You have not done what I asked.
When I ask you to listen to me and you begin to tell me
why I shouldn’t feel that way, you are trampling on my feelings.
When I ask you to listen to me and you feel you have to do something to
solve my problems, you have failed me, strange as it may seem.
Listen! All I ask, is that you listen.
Not talk or do – just hear me.
And I can do for myself; I am not helpless.
Maybe discouraged and faltering, but not helpless.
When you do something for me that I can and need to do for myself,
you contribute to my fear and weakness.
But, when you accept as a simple fact that I do and feel what I feel,
no matter how irrational,
then I can quit trying to convince you and I can get about the business of
understanding what’s behind this irrational feeling.
And, when that’s clear, the answers are obvious
and I don’t need advice.
Irrational feelings make sense when we understand what’s behind them.
So, please listen and just hear me. And, if you want to talk,
wait a minute for your turn;
and I’ll listen to you.
Peace & Goodnight,