LISTENING CAN TAKE SOME EFFORT. Truly listening – inviting and allowing the other person to share.
Asking for more details.
Really being – and staying – engaged.
This can take a little energy and focus – often more than simply listening in order to wait our turn to share.
Yesterday I talked with a dear friend and this topic came up: how so often we listen and are so keen to share our own perspective or story that it can shift the conversation back toward us instead of really engaging and inquiring further about what is happening for the other person.
We chatted about the intention behind this, and that within this type of response, there can be a nuanced difference: a difference between responding by sharing a similar story in an effort to establish a deeper connection, essentially trying to say: ‘Hey, something similar has happened to me, too – I get you!’ – and sharing one’s own story as an effort to be heard, ourselves.
I am no stranger to this, myself. When someone is sharing even a difficult experience, I often feel drawn to share what I can from my own experience – in an effort to be helpful, with an overarching goal of making a connection with the person – helping to validate their experience and let them know they’re not alone and that I understand.
But if I dig deep and really reflect, the intent can be a bit fuzzy. Sometimes my responses to share similar experiences have probably been just as much about having my own voice heard and finding my footing in the conversation, as they have been about creating that connection.
We are all eager to share. We all want to be heard. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s human nature.
Particularly when we’ve struggled to be heard or find our place in social situations – it can feel like a ‘win’ to find a break in the conversation in order to speak, or simply have something to contribute.
When we have felt largely quiet or felt lacking in something to add to the discussion, sharing something from our own experience comes with a feeling of: Yes! I am now a part of this conversation! This is just how some conversations naturally go.
But we must not underestimate the value of the engaged listener – the one who asks for more details and allows the sharing to happen without adding much or derailing the conversation into their own story.
Noticing how much it can take to stay engaged and ask questions, yet knowing others have done it for us can perhaps inspire us to make those extra efforts ourselves – as often as we remember and have capacity to do so.
Acknowledging how valuable it can be to make someone else feel heard is priceless and can help us take that action ourselves.
I’ve taken courses and workshops and trainings that highlighted the importance of listening that includes ‘normalizing’ and ‘validating’ what people are sharing – which introduced me to that terminology.
But most of all I’ve learned the value of being heard:
~ by being heard, myself, by wonderful listeners in my life.
~ by noticing how much of a relief it is to be invited to share.
~ by knowing that the engaged listener is really right there with me as I share my story.
Reminding myself of this helps me to work at being that engaged listener for others more often in my daily life.
Wishing you a day of being the engaged listener and also the person who is being heard. ❤