When was the last time someone really listened to you? Gave you their full attention with no time limits?  Where they sat down and listened instead of Swiffering their kitchen floor or silently surfing Facebook while you talked on the phone?

It’s a rare and precious gift — listening.  I used to meet weekly with a group of women.  We’d write and share and witness each other’s words, feelings, lives.  Then it became difficult for us to meet every week.  There were too many schedule conflicts so we planned to meet once a month instead. I thought I would be OK with the new monthly gatherings because my schedule was one of the ones that conflicted with our group but turns out I’m not OK with it.  It feels like a big loss.  Out in the real world there are not many opportunities for pure listening. It’s rare to feel so safe and nurtured. In the real world we must multi-task and do rather than listen and be.

We’ll Have to Get Together and Talk (Yeah Right)

I have many dear friends who have listened in the past and whom I have listened to. Now we struggle to find time to connect.  If we do bump into each other there is always a sense of being on the clock. Or it’s been so long since we talked that we just take turns spilling our stories.  Like passing a microphone,it’s more waiting to speak than actual listening. When we’re done we rush back to our regularly scheduled program.

If we do have time at the end of the day to catch up with someone, we are too tired and would rather passively listen to the television, connect online with IM chats or status updates (typing/talking and reading not full-out listening) or go to bed early.

Did You Hear Me?

As a mother I spend a lot of time with my kids.  We want kids to listen to us but we mustn’t burden them with our feelings, troubles or frustrations.  Keep that to yourself.  Work it out and show the kids and everyone else how strong you are.  Meanwhile you give them your full attention and listen eagerly whenever they let you in on their latest worries or wonders.  We cherish any communication that involves eye contact. We know there is a lot of tuning out going on.

Sooner or later listening without being heard feels like a balloon losing air.  It’s hard to be available and engaged when you feel lifeless or used.

More Listening Less Unhappiness

Listening is free and spreads empathy and could possibly change the world but instead we fill our days with activities that keep us busy but rarely give us space to really hear each other.

The beautiful thing about feeling heard is that it makes you want to return the gift by listening with your whole being.  You want to match the level of care you felt while being listened to.

Old people are lonely.  They make doctor’s appointments to have someone to talk to, to have someone listen to them.  Kids act out because they can’t get their parents undivided attention.  Adults stress out because they have no sounding boards for their frustrations.  If listening was a common practice, a daily ritual, how much of this would go away?

How often do you really listen to others?  Do you feel heard yourself?