The Healing Power of Engaged Listening
February 4th, 2017
Last weekend I was walking in the grocery store when I heard a patron ask how a store employee was doing. The employee’s response was, “I’m fine. No use complaining because no wants to listen anyway.”
At this point he was walking by me and I said with a big smile, “I’ll listen to you!” He laughed, made a few jokes and continued walking by. Most likely he didn’t believe that I’d leave my basket, grab a drink from the in-store Starbucks and tell my partner Doug to come back and pick me up in an hour. But I would have.
All day I thought about the exchange in the store, because I, too, have felt at times that no one cares to listen. It inevitably created a profound feeling of aloneness, isolation and like I don’t matter to anyone. A feeling I don’t enjoy nor do I enjoy thinking someone else is feeling.
I’m going to disclaim that I understand that no one (including myself) wants to hunker down with a chronic complainer who only wants to discuss the problem and never the solution. Those types can be incredibly draining and are usually people we need to instill healthy boundaries with.
However, what about the people who truly need someone to talk to? The ones who are trying desperately to work through a problem, but have no one to bounce it off of? Or how about the ones who may not have many people in their lives and simply crave human companionship?
Would you be willing to show up for them? Could you put your own stuff down for an hour, pull up a chair and lend an engaged ear?
It has been said by many psychological and spiritual experts that engaged listening is one of the highest acts of love.
It says: You matter and I care.
Many of us love to think that we are compassionate and caring listeners, but our behavior proves differently. We zone out when the person is sharing his/her story and/or we can’t wait to switch the topic to us. We jump to conclusions to finish their sentences so we don’t have to listen longer than we want to. We don’t really care what they have to say. We don’t really care about their problem. And we don’t really want to know the dirty details of their life.
Believe it or not, you are doing both of you a grave disservice.
Because engaged listening is not only healing for the talker, it is healing for the listener as well.
When we open our hearts to listen…
We serve the betterment of humanity. By caring about what another has to say, we are literally healing the planet. Imagine how the person felt before you “cared” and how he/she feels now? By actively listening, you’ve lifted another’s spirit. You’ve made them feel like someone cares and when we know someone cares hope and inspiration arise. In turn, their lifted spirit will serve another and so on and so on. The ripple effect of love begins! Win!
We serve our soul. Our soul is comprised of all things high and loving. Our soul yearns for us to live in unity with its nature. Truly caring about another’s situation and giving them our time and attention is living within the bounty of our spirit! Stepping out of self and into service allows us to nurture the deepest part of our being. It restores our energy, invigorates our life path and builds our self-worth. Win!
We evolve while listening. The ego loves to convince us we are all-knowing to keep us in the dark in order to keep itself alive. When we open our minds to what others have to say, we begin undoing of the ego because it leaves us more knowledgeable and wise. Growth, advancement and learning do not happen by talking; they happen by listening.
This morning I was at the full service carwash. I had two random ladies strike up conversations with me. The first told me all about being married for 57 years and how some days she wanted to take a dull knife to her husband. (Chuckle, Chuckle) We laughed and chatted a bit more. When she turned to leave, I sincerely wished her a Happy Anniversary. She stopped and turned back to me with a perplexed look and quietly said, “Thank you… That was really kind of you.” I got the feeling she doesn’t receive much well-wishing in her life and was truly appreciative of my sentiment.
The second lady approached me outside and talked to me about her job, divorce, vitamins, hair, roommate situation, car, her sister and her hometown of Chicago! From her stories, I got the feeling she doesn’t have many people to talk to or who truly care about her thoughts and feelings.
When it was time for her to go she cupped my hand in both of hers and said, “I sure enjoyed talking to you. Thank you for listening.” She even gave me a spot of wisdom to take away:
The toes you step on now is the ass you will kiss later. Ha! Got it!
I often ask God to help me be of service in the world. I ask to put me in the right place at the right time for the right people. As small as those two exchanges may seem, they felt divinely guided to me. Just by listening, I was able to let someone know I care and put a smile on their face. Those two brief encounters set a loving tone for the rest of my day.
Giving someone your full attention is one of the highest acts of love. It is serving to everyone – you and the other person. Even if you don’t get to see the results, rest knowing engaged listening is never in vain because you’ve let someone know they matter and you care.
I dedicate this piece to the beloved listeners in my life: Doug, Sue, Lisa, Ed, Ashley & Kelli. I appreciate you more than you know! XO