The Importance of Listening

‘The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention…. A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words’

Rachel Naomi Remen

In the recent Grenfell enquiry, it was the survivors and their families and witnesses that continue to give their important account of that awful night so that lessons may be learnt. It is vital both for their healing and for the future that they are heard perhaps repeatedly. We must learn to listen to sometimes horrific things to help others to heal. All our stories whatever they might be are important and help us to really connect with one another on a deeper level.
To connect we must enter and understand another’s world and experience. So many of us have so much to say and are already rehearsing our responses when another is talking.
Someone close to me said the other day ‘You’re not listening!’, and it was true, I was extremely anxious that day and she said that she could tell that I was thinking of a thousand things and in my distracted head I was not retaining much of what she was trying to get across. So much of our day is distracted by worries, plans, regrets. It may be worth us all stopping and really listening. Be here, be in the present moment and focus on someone’s world.
In 12 step programmes a meeting of recovering people tell their story and there is usually no feedback or cross talk. Someone else’s words hang in the air and then it is another person’s turn to speak, of their experience and perhaps to connect through their identification with the previous speaker. No -one comments, asks questions, or interrupts. This format honours the individual’s perspective and allows deep connection in the silence between shares.
One basic idea that underpins most types of Counselling and Psychotherapy too, is to offer people a chance to express their story, their truth and to be themselves, without judgement. When we are really listened to in this way we can slow down, really hear ourselves, and find out exactly who we are and what we want from our one unique life.
I am going to really listen with all my being to the next encounter and see what happens. In giving this level of attention to another’s story, experience or feelings, I might certainly relax a little, dis-identify from myself and preoccupations, and become better focused. I know that it will certainly vastly improve any communication and relationship.