Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I Hear You.

One of the most basic human needs is the need to feel heard. However, it occurs to me that few people have the ability to truly listen empathically. There are times when making someone feel heard might just be the most important thing we can do for another human being, and I believe that many of us are falling down on the job. Perhaps even more concerning is that most people think they are good listeners; however, if we take the time to listen to the world around us, we can quickly learn that this simply isn't the case.

There are those who are unable to hear because, while someone is speaking, their very busy brains are already thinking about what they are going to say as soon as there's a pause. This means that, at some point, they stop listening to what else is being said; they are forming thoughts and sentences in their heads before the speaker is done. There are people who interrupt so frequently that those around them can't fully express themselves. These folks can't wait to get their thoughts out there, regardless of whether or not it relates to the conversation at hand or how it makes the speaker feel in the moment. There are also the one uppers and story tellers who, rather than processing what's been said, want to immediately throw in their own experience. Even when it relates to the conversation, this has the ability to minimize what was shared.

And so I ask you to just shut up and listen. Don't be afraid of silent spaces... sometimes more is said through silence than through words. Sometimes the silence encourages the people we care most about to share even more than they might otherwise have. Find a way to focus only on the words being spoken in the moment, rather than on the thoughts running rampant through your mind. Ask "is there more?" before responding. Know there is a time and a place for story telling, but that when someone truly needs to feel heard, the spotlight must be theirs alone.