How often do we feel heard? Understood? Acknowledged?
Maybe not so often.
It’s interesting, though, because most of us have a soul-deep longing to be heard; an absolute thirst to be understood and acknowledged.
In fact, if we don’t get these things, we can begin to feel empty and isolated, like lonely aliens wandering in a barren desert far, far away from home.
Being heard is a nourishing, vital form of connection—it can help us feel supported and inspire us to grab ahold of our long-lost dreams and ripe-as-a-mango hopes.
But, if we want to be heard, then we must also make an effort to hear others.
‘Cause all too often, we’re eager to give advice without really understanding what’s going on for someone.
‘Cause all too often, we’re greedy for speech without giving two shits about listening.
Because listening is scary.
It’s vulnerable, soft, passive and quiet: all the things we normally run fast as f*ck to get away from.
Let us face these fears and explore the gorgeous art of empathic listening. The yummy bonus is that in practicing this, we can also learn to hear ourselves—something that comes in handy very often!
First, we have to get quiet.
Really, really quiet.
Breathe. Slowly. Deeply.
This silence slowly starts to become something more than just silence—it unfolds into a wide open safe space for another’s voice to blossom like eager buds in early Spring.
And, in this space, we, as the listener, can root like sturdy Oak trees, standing courageously in this magnificent softness.
We can begin to powerfully beckon forth another’s truth.
We can ask, “how are you?” or maybe we won’t even need to ask anything at all.
We simply allow another to unfold in front of us, in their own way, in their own time.
We show up and stand still. Steady. Rooted. Softly strong.
We do not rush their words.
We do not interrupt.
We do not glance at our watches or smartphones.
We respond only when absolutely necessary with gentle questions to clarify what is being said and supportive phrases like “I can understand that” or “I hear you”—and maybe sometimes we just respond with a simple nod of the head.
We begin to really feel what is going on for them, underneath the surface.
Looking this magnificent person right in the eyes, we acknowledge their pain, truth, triumph and struggle.
With open hearts, we receive it all, graciously and generously, honoring each word uttered—whether we agree or not.
Because right now, in this succulent moment, it’s not about our opinions, judgements, or viewpoints; it’s not really about us at all.
It’s about bearing witness to someone’s soul, hearing their luscious voice and letting them know that they are understood and important. Besides, there’s always time to share our impressions and thoughts later.
Right now, it is about hearing this person’s rawest, juiciest truths.
When we listen in this empathic manner, it’s so much more than listening: we are actually creating a sacred space.
We are encouraging someone to find their own answers, hold their own truths closer, and feel a deep sense of inner empowerment.
How beautiful is that!?
To listen is to be brave; it is to bow down to someone’s soul and honor their delicious brilliance.
We can do that—for others and for ourselves—more often.
Because at the end of the day, we are are struggling in our own ways—and we are all longing to be acknowledged and heard.
*Author’s note: There are certainly some situations where listening in this way might not be fruitful. Some folks may try to take advantage of our willingness to listen and walk all over us. Not cool, right? It’s up to us to determine with who, and in what conditions this type of listening would be safe and constructive for both parties. Listen to your gut!
Author: Sarah Harvey
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Harry (Howard) Potts at Flickr