Being heard

“When I have been listened to, when I have been heard, I am able to re-perceive my world in a new way.” ~ Carl Rogers

When was the last time you experienced the gift of having someone listen to you? I’m not talking about the last time someone heard you speak. I mean the last time someone really put their entire focus into listening to you and really hearing and understanding what you were saying. Without giving advice. Without offering criticism. Without even offering to “fix” it for you. When was the last time someone truly just listened to you?

How did it feel? Did it help you re-perceive your world afresh?

I know that, for me, being truly heard is one of the most powerful things I experience. There is something about the experience of having another person holding space and bearing witness to whatever it is that I am sharing that allows me to process my thoughts and feelings in a much deeper way than when I try to do it in my own head. Most people I talk to say the same thing.

And yet, how seldom do we take the time and effort to really listen to one another. It’s so easy to get distracted by all that we have going on in our lives, to get too busy to take the time and effort to lavish that kind of focus on another person, or to get so caught up in our own dramas and needs and that we can’t set those aside long enough to be present for someone else.

After all, as simple as hearing is—we do it all day long whether we want to or not—listening takes real effort. To let go of our own agendas long enough to be completely engaged and curious about another person is something that takes practice. It takes energy, intense focus, and a great deal of curiosity about how other people work.

Listening is one of the things that a coach brings to the coaching relationship. Because the agenda for the coaching sessions always belongs the client, the coach can listen in a way that those closer to us seldom can because the coach is not worrying about how your decisions and choices will effect her own life. The coach trusts that you already have all of your own answers, so there is no need for her to try to tell you what to do. She just listens and asks questions to draw you deeper into the space where you can re-perceive your own life in a way that makes your answers clear.

If you’re feeling stuck and can’t seem to unearth the answers you have buried deep inside, consider finding someone with a gift for listening to hold space and listen to you. This may be a friend, a relative, a partner, or even a coach. Whoever you choose, make sure that person is able to set aside their agenda long enough to really focus on holding space and listening to you with nonjudgmental curiosity. You just might find the space to re-perceive your world in a way that makes it possible to see the way forward.

And next time you are spending time with someone you know who is stuck, consider practicing the skill of listening to them with agenda-free curiosity. There’s nothing like holding that sacred space while someone else find their way. Give it a try!