We all want to be and feel heard. Right? Is that so much to ask? If that is what you want, then I ask you, are you a good listener? How often do you truly listen? You know what I mean. The times when you are already thinking about what you want to say next. How often do you focus on the needs, words, and emotions of the other individual(s) in the conversation?
Listening. It is an idea that continues to loop in my thought. Whether it is that quiet voice inside my head that tells me to slow down and listen more, or the voice that wants me to scream to someone else: “Stop. Slow down and just listen to me!” We see it all the time. The mom that is going too fast and has too much happening that she forgets to really look into her child’s eyes and listen to what they have to say. Or the dad that has a child that never stops talking, do you think he sometimes stops listening? The co-worker, boss, or employee that like to talk, but do not return the favor and actively listen to you.
It is tough. You have to stop all the interconnected wires in your head, the questions you might need to ask, the tasks you might need to accomplish, and just be present for the other individual(s). When we do it, when we truly are present and actively listening the other individual knows it. They feel it, see it, and appreciate it. (Well we hope they do). It might not be obvious, but listening is a win-win situation. You learn more about others and yourself.
I had an ah-ha moment yesterday. During a conversation at work, I stopped my head from going fast and I really focused and listened. Instead of letting what was on my mind spew out of my mouth, I focused first. When I really listened I found good questions came to the surface. Questions that hopefully helped the person I was talking to get to the answers they needed. It is better to listen, engage, and ask questions, rather than listen and tell someone just what you think they should do. Let them figure it out for themselves.
My goal is to try to listen more each day. Even if it is one conversation, then two, then three a day. I know the moment I am present. I know when I am consciously listening. You will too. Try it, and let me know if you notice a difference.
Growing up my dad would often say: “Children should be seen and not heard.” Usually it was when he was grumpy, upset, or angry, but it made a mark on me. I think for many, many years I found it hard to speak up and say what was on my mind. I think in my head, I had replaced “children” with “women.” I saw many boys and men speak their minds and they were listened to, but when I would try to speak up, I felt timid and like my ideas would not be meaningful or have value. So I kept quiet.
Jump from childhood to the middle of college. I was a Sociology major, taking classes on race, class, and gender. I was learning I had a voice. I had shaved my head, I was starting to talk, and it was as though a pipe had burst. I had found my voice. It had only taken me 10-15 years!! I have vowed (thank you Chris for going along with me on this one) that my children will be heard. I will watch that if I have a little girl, that I will hear her just as if I have a little boy. I want my children to be proud of what they have to say, to be bold, and to feel that even if others disagree, that they should still speak their mind.
Sometimes we have those days when we do not feel heard or understood by others. One of my pet peeves is when you are talking to someone and you can tell they are not listening. So when I read the Daily Om from May 24, 2012 I appreciated thinking about the relationships in my life where I feel listened to and understood (unlike as a kid). I specifically like this line:
“When we are in a relationship where we feel listened to and understood, we count ourselves lucky because we know how rare that experience is.”
As I mentioned earlier, it took me many years to be able to stand up for myself and communicate to those close to me how important their presence of active listening meant to me. In my mind, active listening and communication is a form of love. It says I care enough about you that I will be present in this moment and listen to what you have to say and hear what you might need right now.
Fast forward to 2012. I now speak my mind freely, at times possibly too freely. I know I have a voice. I know it matters. I know it should be heard. Is there someone in your life you are not listening to? Someone that needs so earnestly to be heard? Have you taken the time out to listen to them?