October 15, 2020

If We Want to be of Service, We Need to Learn How to Listen to Others.


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I have always been fascinated by others, but mainly, I have always been a good listener.

Since I was a child, I used to collect secrets from the most disparate people. Secrets from my mother, my friends at school or from friends on holiday, and also from strangers. Sometimes, even from people older than me.

As I got older, I learned the importance of not revealing these secrets—a lesson that I acquired not without some regrets. This was maybe my “sin of childhood,” but now, it doesn’t matter.

I’ve always been surprised at how people confide in me so quickly, and I always respected this trust—something I felt was precious—while in the meantime, I continued nourishing my interest in others, observing them, and keeping their confessions with me.

Then, growing up, this thing that characterized me led me to a profession in helping others. People kept confiding in me, and I kept listening to them.

I am also a good speaker; I like to talk. I mainly love to speculate about abstract concepts or philosophy more than talking about myself (but this is another story, too).

However, I don’t love gossip. Above all, I don’t like all the energy people lose when they judge and talk about others instead of trying to understand themselves. At the same time, while I was growing up, what today I recognize as a gift caused me suffering when I realized that it wasn’t so simple to find in others that same listening I was so ready to offer them.

Many times, in the birth or in the deepening of a friendship, I have hoped to receive the same listening and genuine interest I would offer. But, more than once, I’ve experienced disappointments instead. It is true that our giving should be selfless, just as it is true that as adults we can and must explain our needs, but a part of me has always thought that there was some sort of “unwritten code,” and that if people weren’t ready to reciprocate me with the same listening, I wouldn’t have been asking for it.

But maybe they simply weren’t able to offer it, and I shouldn’t have it expected nor taken it personally, but instead, tries to understand.

Understanding is what most often cured me of disappointment and unhappiness, along with acceptance and nonjudgment.

Today, I hardly suffer from this anymore. I understand that our relationship with others has only to do with the relationship we have with ourselves; that the more we are full and happy and satisfied, the more we have to offer; and that the ability to listen to others is inseparable from the ability we have to listen to ourselves.

I no longer suffer from this but, every now and then, I look around and I realize we are still a bit far away. There are many of us who are good at talking about ourselves, but not enough of us who are good at observing and trying to understand others.

So, here are some points:

How can we really help others if we can’t even see them? Or be able to listen to them? I believe that if we really want to be of service, we should do our inner work before so that we can stop and come back to ourselves each time. So that we can be ready to give others the space and attention we so desperately continue crave for ourselves.

Then, make an active effort of listening, ask open questions, practice authentic nonjudgment where people can finally feel heard and seen, and where they can feel safe and loved.

I think this is a huge step forward for the elimination of those unhealthy patterns that distance us from others and from relationships that make us distant when, in reality, we are united—ourselves with ourselves, and therefore, united with others.

Listening to others also increases our self-esteem, empathy, and emotional well-being. We realize that we can actually “get out of ourselves” without getting lost. On the contrary, in doing so we discover that we are finally supporting the world.


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Viola Piacentini  |  Contribution: 250

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