Take this a step further: What about experiencing the sensation of being understood, when you felt empathy from someone? Rare? I’d say so.
Many people are resigned to the fact that not being heard or understood is commonplace. I read an article addressing the rise in teenage suicide. I had the thought that if more of these young people had actually been heard, or better yet – understood, it might have made a big difference in their lives.
This is a serious supposition I admit, but I also know the art of listening, and communication in general, is disappearing. Our lives have become fast-paced and technology-filled. I’ve heard many people comment that although technology keeps them in touch with so many people, they rarely have meaningful conversations.
Our world has become on-the-go, with most interactions happening through brief communications over electronic devices. This can get confusing. Phone calls are made while doing other things like driving home from work or shopping causing our attention to become divided. Let’s not mention texting – often misinterpreted – “Did he mean this?” “Why did she write it that way?” Too confusing, too hard.
Electronics, social media, texting all have their place, but if this is all we do – then there’s a huge part that has gone missing: Face to face interaction. Human contact and communication need to be reunited at some point. Are we really in touch?
Listening effects many areas of our life. A neighbor of mine was on a trip to Italy with her sister when their mother passed away. She felt guilty for not being with her and was grieving heavily. She shared that her guilt was the worst part of it all. I must admit, I was flabbergasted and dumbfounded when she told me her doctor put her on antidepressants. She’s not depressed – she’s grieving. Did the doctor not hear her when she said her mother just died? Is this what we get now – a pill instead of an ear and a referral for grief counseling?
When a genuine opportunity for human communication presents itself, we:
- tend to listen with our busy, cluttered minds
- believe we already know what the person is going to say
- have our response formulated – while they are still talking
- listen with fearful hearts – for the proverbial bomb to drop
Few people are listening and available with quiet minds and open hearts. How do we put a pause on our busy lives? It could mean massive changes are needed.
Let’s have an honest look at our lives then . . .
Many of us are being pushed to our max. Life is tough at the best of times. Our minds are assaulted with negative programming, people are being divided, we’re being treated as slaves at our jobs, trying to make ends meet, and our emotions (if we can feel them) are all over the place. Many of us are asking if it’s even safe to let our children outside. Life as a human being is very challenging – we’re being pushed and pulled, stressed, controlled and manipulated left and right.
And then . . . someone wants to talk . . .
- I need to get dinner going.
- Oh no, not her again, so many problems.
- I’ve got to get the kids in a half an hour.
- My to-do list is waiting for me.
- I don’t have time.
- I can’t take another interruption.
Yes, this may be true, but what about the cost of not listening . . . to our children, or to a spouse or friend, to yourself? Being open and available allows you to sense if something is off with a loved one or even within yourself. It takes work, time, patience and discipline – but it could literally save a life.
Not listening in the moment can cost us lots of time and stress later. Problems and unwelcome circumstances can be averted if we only stop and listen. Make this a priority, you do have the time.
And if you truly don’t have the time in that moment – be honest and say so. Most people will welcome your honesty and respect you for being truthful. I appreciate it when someone is honest with me as opposed to only half-listening. I can feel the difference and know you can too.
“I’m very sorry but I can’t give you all my full attention right now, can we talk later?
This will continue until you say: Stop – enough! You must literally say STOP for you to have some peace in your life. That is step 1. Breathing is step 2. You may even shed a few tears when you find a quiet moment for yourself. That’s ok. Time to get your Self back with an open mind and open heart. Stand in silence, if only for a few seconds, listening to your heart beating. Take stock, be honest – Is this the life you really want? If not, put out an intention for what you do want.
Listening is a very important asset, as is speaking from your heart. If you want to say something, but are struggling with how to communicate, grab your closest friend and tell him or her: I have something I need to say, but unsure of how to say it. Can you listen to me and help? This frames the conversation and hopefully sets up a safe space for which to speak, and with all probability – you will be heard and understood.
Another important thing to consider – communication is a two-way street. When it’s your turn to speak, make sure you have your listener’s full attention before communicating. It’s your responsibility to ensure that you’re being heard. Speaking to someone in the kitchen from the upstairs bathroom isn’t a way to be heard. If you want to be heard, you must set the stage. Turn off electronic devices, minimize distractions and sit comfortably. Your conversation has a greater chance of being successful. And in turn, be available to someone else when needed. Remember, no one can read your mind.
Things to ponder:
- Think of some ways you can approach communication ensuring each person will be heard.
- Is there something you need to say that you really need someone to hear? How can you make this happen?
- Visualize a situation when you’re approached by someone who needs to talk. How can this situation be a win-win?
- Are there ways you can create more space for personal communication?