Please listen to me.
Really listen. Listen like I matter; listen like I mean something to you. Listen like you value my words as much as you value my smile or my honesty, or whatever it is you like about me. Because what I really want you to see, more than my intelligence or my kindness or my charm, is me.
So please listen with your entire being, with yours ears and your heart and your eyes. Hear my words, but also notice the tone, the pitch, the emotion that undulates with each syllable. Notice the vulnerability in my eyes, and the hopefulness that peeks out from farther back. Notice the way I twist my hair around a finger or tilt my head or tap my foot. I am telling you a story.
Please don’t interrupt or judge or share a similar story or disagree. Don’t even agree. Just listen.
Listen to my sadness or anger or confusion or fear or whatever emotion is whirling and twirling through me. I’m not asking you to be sad with me or angry on my behalf. I’m not asking you to solve all my problems. I’m just asking you to listen. Such a simple gesture, really, but so hard to find these days. It gets lost amongst all the well-intentioned words of advice or someone else’s desire to be heard. It drowns in an ocean of words that I’m not looking for.
Please listen until I’m understood, until you’ve uncovered my thoughts and feelings, the pieces of me I am trying so hard to express. Look me in the eyes and tell me what you hear—be my mirror. Tell me the thoughts and feelings that I am communicating to you. Don’t worry if you’re wrong; I will appreciate your effort and happily guide you in the right direction. And when you reflect me, my soul will smile and relief will wash over me like a wave because I’m not alone anymore. You understand me. I know you might not understand exactly what I’m going through―how can you?―but this type of understanding is enough.
And I know that sometimes you need someone to listen, and I can do that for you, but let’s take turns, okay?
After you listen to me, I will listen to you, if that is what you’d like, or maybe you’ll want me to listen another time. I can even listen to you first, if that’s what you need. And I will listen without judgment, without comparing your story to my life story, without trying to change you. It’s so hard not to interrupt sometimes! But I will try my best, for you.
The next time I utter a sentence and you hear a moment’s hesitation or a story waiting to be told or even an explosive burst of anger, please just listen.
Seek to understand me.
Let me know I’m not alone in this world.
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Author: Melissa Richardson
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Rick & Brenda Beerhorst/Flickr
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