On Listening

Truth Byte #27

“No one is listening to you.” 

You keep talking and talking.  And no one seems to hearing a word you say.

Sound familiar?

I have this experience when we are running late for something.  I tell them and tell them that we are late, but my kids just don’t seem to hear me!  And neither do their grandparents.  For different reasons, I think.  Little ones are often in a land of their own, where time stretches and shrinks depending on if they are having fun or not.  The grandparents? Well, I think they are tired of giving a shit!

We are all talking, all the time, and no one really seems to be listening at all.  Or if we are listening, it’s mostly to be polite until there is a pause so we can interject our own witty additions and observations to the conversation.

There is one place I have found that I am really, deeply, truly listened to, and it’s a space that I don’t visit often enough:

On a couch or a phone talking to one of my two “shy” friends. 

I have known both of them for decades, and when I speak to them, they actually listen.

Deeply.  Thoughtfully.

They let me blabber a mile a minute and flit for this idea to that topic, finding the thread and keeping me grounded.  They have a warm, amused look as I talk, and they don’t interrupt.  And when they do speak, it’s insightful, connected, and rich.

I think these days we are supposed to call people like them “introverted”.

I call them steady, grounded, deep. 

These women know themselves, and they are incredibly perceptive about others.  Unlike me, though, their faces don’t give it away, and they don’t need everyone to know about or agree with their opinions.

One of my two friends, a recruiter who works at an incredible company in Alberta, was featured on Susan Cain’s blog, the Quiet Revolution. The other is a psychiatrist who deeply cares about the human spirit and is doing a fellowship on the East Coast.  What these women have taught me is that I need to listen.

Deeply.  Fully.  Without interrupting.

Which is bloody hard for an extrovert.

And yet, that’s my job.  I listen to people every single day.  Even on weekends.

For hours at a time, I listen, not only to their words, but to their bodies, their eyes, their pain.  I listen to how they speak about themselves, and how they speak about the world.  I listen for their strengths, their dreams, the untapped gifts that they have yet to discover.  Sometimes I hear things they don’t want me to hear. 

Sometimes I know things they didn’t even know themselves. 

So in my greatest challenge I have also found an unexpected treasure: the capacity to really listen to someone, to really hear what it is that they are trying to say.

Many times in my work and personal life, I have asked someone the “suicide intervention question” (which is basically, “Are you thinking about ending your life?”) and usually, they are shocked that I knew.  Usually, they are relieved that someone heard through the story to the heart of the matter.  Usually, they are grateful that their secret was “heard” without them having to use the words.  Usually, they get the help they need once they find their way out of that devastating silence.

Today, I challenge you to really listen.  Someone in your world is likely trying to tell you something.  They may be telling you directly, or they may be telling you by cutting you off and pushing you away.  They may be reaching out for help, in the clumsiest way, or they may be telling you something about yourself that you have blinders on about.

Listen.

You will be surprised at what you hear.

Do you want to feel heard? Do you want to become better at listening? Join us in the Fall for a transformational workshop that will help you understand what people are really talking about, underneath all the noise. Sign up today!