I would like to begin this series of post on ‘listening to others’ by talking about how to be present as others share. In other words being fully available and not wonder off in your mind to what’s for tea, plan the shopping list or pay attention to the feelings triggered in you from what was being shared.
Some people are afraid to listen because they are not sure what to do with what they have heard. Often what is said will trigger something in them or remind them of someone they know. It will be tempting at this point to share what your experience was or the story that you have heard that is similar to the one being shared now. Resist the urge to talk about this, as this could ‘shut down’ the individual sharing. By this I mean they may stop talking and decide to keep things locked in side. It sends the message that the story shared is not important or your friends story, yours or the one your heard sometime ago is more important. often this may not be the intended message, nevertheless it could prevent further sharing of thoughts or anything that could be troubling to the individual. Remember the aim is to be available to others. perhaps supporting them through a difficult patch where they maybe able to regain their ability to cope.
Is there a ‘right’ way to listen?
I am sure people may employ a range of techniques but a good place to start will be to:
- Listen without commenting
- Convey through eye contact and other non verbal signals that you are hearing and is present. eg. nodding
Being present and available to listen is a wonderful precious gift to give someone.
How do I keep my issues from getting in the way of listening
If you have begun listening to others and feel their story resonates with you and you find yourself thinking more about your issues and not being able to hear the other person, it maybe you need to find support of your own to fully understand and work through your own issues. Working through your own issues could help you empathise more appropriately with others. If you are working with people and feel the need to address particular areas of your own life in order to become more available then do so. you will grow in understanding and empathy, your own awareness will be heightened and this could also be a gift you can give to others.
Next week: Identifying your filters!!!