Listen up

Dear Soulseekers,

As we get thrust into the middle of the busy holiday season, let’s talk about having empathy. In my last several posts, I’ve been talking about how to increase our empathy for others. Today I want to continue that series and talk about listening and being vulnerable.

I had a friend who passed away almost 2 years ago now who was truly a great listener. When I was talking, she would turn her whole body to face me, and she would lean in and truly hear what I had to say; no matter how trivial it might have been. She has been the only person that as I was talking, I would think Wow, she is really listening to what I have to say. It made me feel like what I had to say was important and that she really cared about that. On the flip side is my husband. He will ask me a question and then walk out of the room as I’m answering. One time he even walked out the back door in mid conversation! I finally said something to him about his communication skills and walking off as we are talking, and his response was, “What do you want me to do? Stand in front of you and look you in the face?” YES!! Why is that so strange? I am still dumbfounded to this day by his response. And by the way, he still asks questions and then leaves the room. I’ve just quit answering. If he wants to talk, he knows where to find me, and he can stay in the same room with me as we are talking. After 28 years of marriage, I have earned that.

As you can see, listening to others is important. Listening is an active process. I see it everyday with my students at school. I will give directions and set them free to work and immediately they are asking a question that I have already answered. You have to train others to be good listeners as well as practicing being a good listener yourself. It’s so easy these days to be distracted by our phones and the constant stream of thoughts in our heads. Again we need to get quiet and still in order to truly listen. I will quit talking if my husband gets on his phone while I am talking to him. Even my 75 year old mother will pick up her phone during a conversation with me and check it Seriously?

It’s tough these days. We are all guilty of using those hand held devices too much. I would suggest that this lack of interest and not having someone truly listen to us leads many people to therapy. Think about it. When was the last time you had a conversation with someone and felt like they truly heard what you were saying? How did you know that they heard you? Was there eye contact? Did they lean towards you? Or maybe they repeated some of what you said back to you or were able to share that they have felt the same way or had a similar experience? If you have someone like that, you are lucky and hopefully that person can say the same about you.

If you only choose one of the habits of highly empathic people, I would choose this one. Truly listening to someone and having them feel heard is probably one of the best things you can do.

Take deep breaths this holiday season and be sure to make time for yourself, even if it’s only 10 minutes. You’ll be glad you did.

Until next time,

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I'm honest, sarcastic, funny, loyal, a goal setter, determined, health conscious, a dreamer, a bibliophile, and a creative.

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