Listening Deeply

listen-deeplyWhy is listening so hard?

  • Because it means we will hear things we don’t agree with.
  • Because we will fight the impulse to share the “correct point of view.”
  • Because we want to fix it for the other rather than share in their emotion.
  • Because we can’t let them get away with that.
  • Because we believe our voice is the most important one.
  • Because we feel slighted.
  • Because it’s not fun, or what we want to do right in that moment.
  • Because we have programmed ourselves into distraction.
  • Because we’ve heard it all before.
  • Because we don’t feel heard, so it’s hard to extend that courtesy to others.
  • Because we will have to sit with our own frustrations, anxieties, reactions, and feelings of guilt.
  • Because we will be asked to look at ourselves without interruption.

Have I exhausted all of our justifications?

Why is it so important?

  • Because it is what can truly bring us together.
  • Because it is what we are being asked to do by the person we are with.
  • Because it is an act of compassion and can heal the other and ourselves.
  • Because we learn to sit with differences peacefully.
  • Because it helps us become more focused individuals.
  • Because it allows us to recognize our shared experience with others.
  • Because we learn more that way.
  • Because it teaches us to live with presence.
  • Because it reminds us that there are many ways to look at something.
  • Because we gain a deeper understanding of the other.
  • Because it encourages us to let go of judgment.
  • Because we learn to just be with something, even if it’s hard.
  • Because we will finally be allowed to look at ourselves, without interruption.

Doesn’t that sound good?

Maybe not all of it sounds that great to begin with. What does it feel like when your child looks at you and says, “You’re hurting me?”  What does it feel like when your partner breaks down and cries to you about a problem? What is it like when you listen to politics that seem abhorrent to you? My guess is: painful. These moments make us question our ability to love on deeply personal and far reaching levels. When we sense deeply into that pain, it comes down to not wanting to be here, right in that moment. Our impulse is to fight, freeze, or flee. All take us out of the moment and keep us from a deeper level of being, of loving.

There are always places to begin as you choose to deepen your practice of deeply listening. You might begin by identifying your “hot button” topics and reflect on why they create disturbances for you. Think of a way to manage your emotional response, recognizing that you can be powerful enough to withstand your reactions.  Work this out with a therapist, coach, sponsor, etc., then practice as much as you can.

An interpersonal approach might involve listening without interrupting the speaker. Gaze at them, nod in support, breathe through it, remaining quiet yet active. When the speaker is done use the reflective prompt, “What I heard you say was…” and repeat what you heard. Allow the speaker a chance to clarify any misunderstanding. Practice this as much as you can.

One of our most basic human needs asks, “Do you see me?” We know we are truly seen when we are deeply listened to. My being can relax into acceptance because of you peacefully being with who I am. Beautiful.

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