When do you most feel connected with someone? What happens in that moment?
Whether talking with a friend, family member, or participant in mediation, I understand that one of the best ways to connect is to simply listen.
Does it mean that I am the best listener all the time? No, not at all. And the disconnection becomes almost palpable when I do not listen.
I sometimes find myself frustrated when someone repeats the same story. It helps me to remember that the person must not feel heard. While my eye contact or facial expression may show that I am listening, sometimes I need to say something to demonstrate I heard.
Part of listening involves acknowledging the person speaking. Without acknowledgement, the person may seek other ways to send the same message.
However, I must be mindful to simply acknowledge what has been said, rather than minimize, educate, or advise. A leader in empathic listening, Marshall Rosenberg, implores to never give advice unless it is requested in writing and signed.
Yet, I know that I am not alone in my tendency to offer ideas and suggestions to family and friends. There seems to be a natural human inclination to try to fix things or make them better for people.
Doing so, however, may create greater discontent, especially when the recipient does not want to be fixed or seek the advice.
Sometimes, people just need to process their experience, and no one can make it easier or different. The person may just want to know that someone listened.
Allowing someone a safe space to share may just be the best gift you give.
How do you show you are listening?