I seem to have been doing a lot of listening recently.
A friend had his research stolen and published without accreditation. He needed a sympathetic ear into which he poured his feelings of anger, hurt, betrayal and frustration.
My mother has needed to process all the emotion attached to objects before she can let them go. I have listened to all her stories about people I never knew and places I've never been.
My younger daughter needed to tell us about her feelings of anger and resentment over school, over the way things are done in the family; the way nobody ever listens to her.
Ah yes: because we're not very good at listening.
I know that when I'm "Up", I burble all over the place. I don't mean to be insensitive, but I don't speak into people's space – I just fountain joy (occasionally irritation or frustration) all around, and don't consider that other people may need to stay dry. When "Down", I am incapable of listening – all my attention is centred on coping through that dark misery.
But, we do need to listen.
We need to listen so we can respond appropriately to situations and we need to listen to meet the emotional needs of others.
We need to listen just as we need to be listened to.
I remember being taught listening skills on a management training course, long ago.
The first technique is to really listen. That means paying attention to the speaker rather than using the space to formulate your own reply.
Part of it is to make the appropriate response. This may be eye contact (it might not, depending on the situation), it may be to make listening noises: the "Uh huh," and "Mmm…" – although these must be real and not just those we make to make someone think we're listening, when really our mind is on peeling potatoes. We should also make the speaker know they are understood, maybe by reflecting back to them what they've just said, but in different words. If we've got it wrong, then they will correct us – hopefully without storming out of the room with the teenage, "You never understand anything!"
Very often we just need to listen; we don't have to solve their problem. Very few of us, after all, have a magic wand we can wave to make everything all right. When someone is pouring out their grief over a death or loss, then what we feel is an inadequate though heartfelt "I'm so sorry," is all they need. We may need to validate their emotion: "Absolutely I can see why you're angry; I would be too!"
And sometimes, when that emotion is directed at us, we need to say, "I'm sorry that what I did upset you."
I think we have all heard the saying that we have two ears but only one mouth and that we should use them in the proportion given.
Not bad advice.
(and the earworm to go with this: https://bit.ly/2lWqOoD)
A Moodscope member.
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