The Art of Listening
Written by Jennifer Komis, MAMFT, MDIV
The first class I took in therapy school was called The Art of Listening. I thought I had it in the bag. I mean, come on, I’d been listening for AGES (as an eldest child and total feeler). WRONG. Here’s what I learned…
Listening is easy if:
1) You already agree with what’s being said
2) You aren’t emotionally involved in making a separate point or
3) You’ve slept 8 hours, accomplished all of your tasks, have had a great day, and are your very best self (insert sparkly smile here)
Otherwise (which is most of the time), listening is HARD. We want to interrupt and make our point (I do). We want to insert a platitude so we don’t have to sit with the other person’s pain (Shh, shh, everything happens for a reason), we want to interject some kind of suggestion (If you try a, b, and c, I think it would help…), or we want to judge and silence to get it over with (This IS NOT a big deal. Get over it.).
We live in a culture that prizes efficiency, speed, debate, ego, and winning. This is deeply ironic because therapy research seems to say that what we really, deeply want is to feel heard. Things like being right seem to matter far less when we truly slow down, let go of the perceived threat to our worldview, and just hear one another out.
Can you hear it? That’s the voice of someone else. Someone else whose fought her/his own battles trying to put words to them. Someone else who is seeking to protect her/himself in a world that feels overwhelming at times. A person who is hoping to feel heard, seen, and valued, despite their imperfections. Someone else like you.