In a world with so much chatter, it is no wonder most of us do not feel heard. I see many families sitting together at a restaurant and everyone is on their electronics. On the other hand, I see families sitting together where everyone is talking. In both cases, though they are sharing the same space, they are not really connecting.
I want to share a story of the amazing power of listening.
Several years ago, I received an invoice to pay for something I felt I did not owe. It appeared the two departments of this particularly large organization lacked proper communication and ultimately billed me erroneously. I contacted them to clear the issue and, thinking it was resolved, put the matter to rest.
Months later, I received a collection notice.
I again contacted them and went through the all too familiar “push 1 for this” and “push 2 for that” pattern. I was redirected many times only to repeat my dilemma to another “customer rep” (you get the picture here). Needless to say, after numerous transfers, I was livid!
Finally, this lovely, gentle woman answered the phone. With her soft customer service voice, she asked “Can I help you?” Receiving the wrath of my frustration, I replied “YES! I’ve been on hold, I’ve been redirected many times, I’ve explained my situation over and over, and NOBODY IS LISTENING TO ME!”
Without skipping a beat, she calmly replied “I’m listening to you.”
In that moment, I literally felt all the anxiety and frustration leave my body. It was like warm, gentle water slowly washed over me, melting away the tension in a matter of seconds. I felt heard!
She did not have to solve my problem in that moment, all she needed to do was care about what I was saying. I’m happy to say we resolved the matter and I owed nothing. I want to add that if our discussion led me to actually owing the bill, I would have gladly paid it. I just needed someone to take the time to listen.
There is nothing more powerful than the feeling that someone is really, I mean REALLY, listening to us. They are not listening with that hollow ear that really says they are not interested, or they are simply being “nice,” or they are appeasing our frustrations, or they are waiting to tell their own story. It’s the kind of listening that says I really care about what you are saying, for in the words of J. Isham:
with another which both attracts and heals”
How well do you listen? Honestly, though we think we do, most of us struggle to really listen to one another, myself included! I was a terrible listener in my youth. I come from a family of talkers and when everyone is talking, who is left to listen? It was not until adulthood that I began to really understand the need and value of listening, and it was not until my training as a counselor that I strengthened this skill. While I am certainly not perfect, I have much stronger listening skills.
The ability to listen is a skill that must be developed and it takes work, especially if you’re more of a talker. However, that is not always necessarily true. Even those that tend to be quieter can still fail to listen. It is not about what we are saying and thinking, either quietly or out loud. Instead, it is about the ability to turn off our own thoughts long enough to let someone else in. Or going even deeper than that, it is about our willingness to step away from our own world and enter into another person’s world . . . to share in their thoughts, feelings, dreams, and ideas.
Take the time to listen but even more importantly, take the time to care. Through the trust of sharing one another’s world, that’s how relationships are built!