How to Hear What is Being Shared With You
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Phil had a relationship in his 30’s where his partner just wanted to be heard, but instead, he would offer advice. He was so accustomed to being called on to fix things like a broken door-lock that such conversations seemed like another request for help. It took years before he understood what she had been asking for.
Maude is in a zoom group where they read and discuss deep intellectual and spiritual concepts. Most recently, she shared how the previous week’s reading had affected her, how she had sought to put these things into practice in her life, and what she needed to work on. One of the men in the group offered her solutions for what she shared, not just once, but several times in a row. Maude had not been looking for fixing. Solutions were not being sought. Her goal had been twofold: to share her experience and to potentially stimulate others to share theirs.
A dear couple we know texted us that their much-beloved long time cat companion had just died. The wife has been through some difficult health issues recently; this was one more heavy blow, and she was bereft. They texted us that they were out driving and could they come by. We set up chairs outside in front of the house at a distance and we all sat together. Our friend shared her feelings of loss; we listened and offered compassion. We talked a bit of this and that, and eventually she shared that she had really started to go down the rabbit hole and needed to get out of the house. She was clearly feeling better just visiting. We offered no suggestions, just love and compassion.
Moments like these are where the jewels of life are found. There is so much of importance being communicated here. How can we deepen our connection and offer each other what is needed and wanted?
Learn to listen and respond to what the speaker needs #relationships #quote #marriage Click To TweetThe more we know of ourselves, the more we will understand what we want and need. These times of more isolation have offered an unusual opportunity for self-reflection and created the time for practices that bring us greater understanding of ourselves.
We can apply the same kind of understanding when verbal intimacy is being offered to us. What is the person looking for in the exchange? By careful listening and loving presence we can be open to the possibilities and learn how to respond to what is being sought.
Maybe they just want to be heard. It can get lonely in our head, and speaking to another is an act of intimacy, of putting yourself out there and being seen.
Perhaps they’re venting. It’s a relief to rant about the driver who cut you off or the relative who has transformed into bridezilla.
Maybe they’re clarifying their thoughts and feelings. It’s a jumble of contradictory ideas and emotions in there, and sorting through them and speaking them aloud is a way to see the situation more clearly.
Or maybe they’re seeking solutions. They can’t quite figure out what to do; they’re looking for another viewpoint or for a hand to pull them out of the pit in which they feel trapped.
They could be sharing to create intimacy, letting you know more about them.
Maybe they’re extending an invitation for you to share as well.
Sometimes it can be fruitful to find a gentle way of asking what is being sought. Often, just stopping, being available, and listening will offer what is needed. Above all, respect their reality and be honored that they have shared it with you.
This pandemic has made us all more aware of how important we all are to each other, and it behooves us to pay attention to these moments of connection in our relationships. Let us stop, listen, and be there for each other.
Photo Credit: Phil Mayes
Thanks for the reminder that advice is not always what’s required!
Thank you for acknowledging this important awareness. The key of course is to put in the effort to hear what may most benefit the person.
Great reminder to actively listen and for me I seem to want to vent but for me it just brings me anxiety and frustration..I now try to jot down not just what was frustrating but why it bugged me to move past the problem to a solution to try..
Verrrrry nice. Thank you for this and for All your Sunday posts. I always look forward to hearing from you!
And it sounds like you’re healthy, peaceful, and well. Very nice.
Love to you both,
So glad to hear from you that you are enjoying and getting something from our posts.
Yes we are doing well – living and loving in these new conditions
be well and be safe
We offered no suggestions, just love and compassion. – thank you for modeling this most excellent way of being.
This post is so timely just now when we need to listen to each to each other to solve our racial and political problems. Our relationships teach us so much!
I received great value from “what is the person looking for in the exchange” and the list of possible answers to that question. But this is the line I will always remember and be able to use: Above all, respect their reality and be honored that they have shared it with you. — Love that! <3
Jinjee, thanks for your comments and that you understand how important listening to each other is. When we were writing this, I was only thinking of listening to our partner and friends, but you point out that it applies more broadly in society. Of course: why hadn’t I thought of that aspect? I’ve been involved with Braver Angels, an organization that brings liberals and conservatives together to hear each other, so it should have been obvious from the first to me. Thanks for reminding me of the bigger picture.
Great advice, and I love the list of what a person might be looking for when they share something with you. A reminder to listen to more than just the words themselves.
Thank you for sharing your experience and so glad you could use the list! Indeed, listening to more than the words themselves is the key!
There is a part of me that tends to want to fix, or add what I have learned on a topic.
However, it is a whole other conversation when I just listen.
Thank you for sharing your insight. It is indeed different when we listen, especially when we are listening to more than just the words.
YES! Listening is a rare skill…and it is so gratefully appreciated, especially when facing loss, or challenges that make us feel dark. It is HEALING TO BE HEARD. That’s so much more than any other medicine! A great opportunity for each of us