the past couple years of my life have really opened my eyes to just how often people, myself being my most studied person in this hypothesis, say the wrong thing.
because the problem is in the saying.
i’ve always been a loquacious being. i talk too much most of the time. it took me a really long time, about 30 years, to learn that what most people need is for someone to listen. birth work has really helped me work on this skill. i have to say that it’s improved my marriage, my ability to help women in pregnancy and it’s starting to seep into other areas of my life as well.
my confession is that i’ve been attending a support group for almost 2 years now. in a good support group a member is able to share his or her thoughts, feelings, current life troubles and other members simply listen. no one tries to solve your problems for you. no one offers you advice. no one even really comments about what you’ve shared. people simply listen. being in this environment for the past couple of years has really helped me examine how i behave as an active listener to fellow humans.
i’ve found that when i feel pulled the most to open my mouth to give the world my answers is when i need to quiet down the most. more often than not, those are the times there is something going on that i really need to hear. i just have to listen deeper.
because when someone is depressed they don’t want to hear your advice about how they should fix it. they want you to listen. in the listening you are saying “i’m sorry you’re going through this but i’ll be here for you anyway.” when someone is sharing a past traumatic experience they don’t want you to offer your opinion on how to process that life event. they want you to listen. because by sharing and retelling their life they are slowly doing the work of healing. what people really want is the dignity to work through something on their own with friends by their side. it’s powerful to come to realizations on one’s own. it’s more powerful to do that while a friend’s hand rests gently and quietly on your back. sometimes we don’t know all the things we know until we have to tell them to another human being.
and that’s the kind of listener i want to be. i don’t want to be the person with all the answers. i want to be the sounding board that gets to quietly observe my friends discover the answers on their own. i want to listen with my heart and not my head. my head is that busy place with thoughts criss-crossing and hurdling over one another. my heart is that quiet place. my heart is still and peaceful and sure. i want to listen with my heart. and i want that from others as well.