How often do we spend listening to someone and not remember a thing about the conversation later on?
And how often do we listen to people with an intent to respond, give an answer or advice?
You see, as much as we want to help and offer a solution, sometimes we miss the whole point of listening. Listening means what it means. Listening. I don’t talk, I don’t interrupt, I don’t question, I don’t judge. I am not distracted.
I listen. And I focus on listening only. That’s my only purpose.
It’s actually fascinating how listening has healing properties for both sides, the person talking and the person listening.
For the person talking, deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve their suffering. You can call it compassionate listening. They talk to you to empty their heart and their mind. They are emptying the bucket of emotions they’re carrying and detangling the thoughts in their head. It feels good to be listened to, to be heard and understood. Someone cares about them, they’re not alone.
Then, for the person listening, I’m not entirely sure which way it goes first but the more you listen to someone, the more you listen to and understand yourself and the more you listen to and understand yourself, the more you see and understand people. Virtuous circle.
I’d say that meditation helped me realise that a lot. Being there for others probably starts with being there for you. Being present for you. Being present for you means looking at yourself only, with no distractions. You try to see the rawness of yourself and you can only achieve that if you don’t let external elements into the equation. You give attention to you and you only. How am I breathing, how am I feeling right now, without any intent to solve any problems in the moment, just observing. Not asking questions and not judging. Just being compassionate and completely okay with how I feel.
It should be the same when listening to people. It’s about trying and seeing the rawness in the person talking to us. We should give them our full attention. The quieter you become, the more you can hear. When you really listen, you see and hear things differently- you pick up a voice that is unusual, a behaviour or a mood that is unusual, an empty gaze that is unusual. You see people, you really see them. Without them having to say anything.
And most of the time, that’s what a person is deeply seeking when they come to you. Does someone see me? Does someone understand me? That’s what someone is wondering when they come and talk to you. Or at least they hope, someone can share whatever they are feeling with them.
Unless they specifically tell you they want advice, chances are you don’t have to give one. Not only it’s not necessarily what they want but with our nature, we often think we know better. If I were you, I’d do this. If I were you I’d do that. Without having the full picture, because we usually don’t fully listen, we don’t listen and pay attention enough to get that full picture.
So, it’s probably not the best advice to give anyway.
Looking at people while they share their story with us is also an extremely valuable element to this. I know I said that when you listen to them you already see them in a way but looking at them is you saying “hey, I see you” without interrupting them. Asking them to look at you in the eye is also an extremely valuable element that can make a huge difference.
You know sometimes people are so ashamed of what they are sharing and they can’t look at you in the eye. For some people it really is difficult. Well as hard it is to them, ask them to look at you. Because it’s you saying “I know you’re ashamed but I still see you and I understand you and I still love you. Go on, carry on, I’m still listening”. Eye contact and a smile are the best medicine. But also respect people’s choice of course. If that’s too much for them, respect that. The show is about them not you.
I have to mention that I’ve only been referring to situations where that person is in some sort of pain, experiencing sadness, sorrow, exhaustion or whatever it might be and needing to be uplifted but listening to people is valid for when people share good news or positive stories too.
I say it because we tend to overlook that. We often think that if everything is going well for someone, if they seem happy, if they passed an exam or got a promotion, opened their business, then they are fine. They kinda don’t deserve a full session worth of listening. But it does matter.
Whatever matters to that person is worth listening to. And fully. Not because they are not in pain means they deserve less time or less attention. How many people are actually doing okay but when they try and share this with their relatives or friends, they give up on their projects, their studies or business because they don’t feel like someone is listening and understanding how important whatever they are doing is for them.
It feels good to be listened to, to be heard and understood. Why don’t we do that more often?