For the past several weeks, I have been on a listening binge and it feels healing.
There are a number of family members and friends who are going through various kinds of difficult personal situations and, in trying to be helpful, I have been listening to what they tell me they want to talk about, in particular what it feels like to be in their crisis, what they really wish they could do to solve it and how frustrating it is to have the situation go on and on.
Listening may seem as though it is a passive activity but it is definitely not. I’m not just sitting in my chair staring vacantly at the person talking and letting my eyes roam around the room, thinking about something else that is totally unrelated to the person’s thoughts nor am I just holding my phone up to my ear, doodling away on a piece of paper or reading something on my computer screen instead of listening to their words.
|Pablo Picasso’s The Flowers of Peace|
I am listening to hear what they intend to say but are not exactly saying. Listening is another way to show I care, that I am interested in them and invested in their troubles as I focus on the backstory of their words. As in when they say they are angry about something, I sometimes get the feeling that they really mean to say they are scared. I’m listening with my heart as I’m trying to understand and support. It’s an emotional exchange because we need each other to help figure out what our crazy creative lives are all about and sometimes we are too close to interpret what’s going on.I also know that they would do the same for me if I needed to talk to them about my life and that creates a solid unspoken feeling of trust. We have each other’s backs so to speak.
Listening is a time to learn about the other person for they are pouring out their thoughts, emotions or sometimes both to you. I have known some of these people for decades and am still learning new things about them and they way they feel about life. I try to imagine what it would feel like to be the other person who is trying to deal with whatever the situation is. And if I’m doing listening well, which I hope I am, then I sometimes feel as if I’m going through the problem too.
If you can’t think of anything to say to someone who is handling a rough situation, you can always offer to support them through the gift of listening.
Listening is a way of honoring someone’s story.