It is important that when we listen that we choose to do so with our full attention. Only then can we begin to appreciate and understand the experiences of others.
Listening is so important to our human connection and helps to build meaningful relationships. However, it’s actually really hard to listen well and effectively. It’s not necessarily something we’re taught at school in our family and so often we may not even understand its value until we experience it ourselves.
So often when we are with others we are waiting to speak rather than to hear what the other is feeling or experiencing. We get caught up in what we think we hear, rather than what might be the real meaning in the person’s words, tone or expression. The result is that the opportunity for connection is lost. Either that or we may just be preoccupied with our own thoughts or worries…
Think of a time when something has bothered you and you’ve reached out to speak to someone only to feel that they haven’t paid attention? Maybe there’s a relationship in your life in which hearing the other has become routine rather than intentional. Perhaps you feel like they don’t understand you? We can all probably think of a time when we haven’t felt heard. If this happens a lot we can start to feel isolated, question ourselves or our relationships.
Listening is a part of human connection and every relationship or interaction is an opportunity to connect or not.
When I sit with someone in therapy my aim is always to understand and make sense of what they say. It’s about listening and reaching out to be present with their thoughts, feelings and emotions, Hearing them, as they are in that moment.
It’s a different way of relating that is both freeing and empowering. It aids self -awareness and insight. When we learn the value of listening (from being listened to), we can learn how to listen to ourselves more and over time our relationships can improve with deeper connections.
Carl Rogers (1902-1987) was a psychologist and one of the most influential in developing the Person Centered approach to counselling and therapy.
Here’s what Rogers has to say about the power of listening (courtesy of Psychology Quotes).