That’s what a colleague and past client said to me today “Thank God for Deep Listening.” She was referring to the 8 week online class I offer on listening and communication skills. Why was she so grateful?
“My adult daughter is being so open with me. She’ll share where she’s struggling. And I’m able to just listen to her. I don’t jump in and try to fix or rescue her. If I feel like she really needs help, I’ll ask “Would you like my support in some way?” She’s said to me “Mom, thank so much for just listening.”
Just listening is a skill.
It’s not really just anything. Listening without fixing, changing, or figuring the other person out is a gift to them but it is a skill that you need to cultivate. It doesn’t come easily to most of us. We’ve been raised with the admonition to “Don’t just sit there! Do something!” Listening without giving advice, yet staying in the conversation and being present is more like the new age twist on that admonition to “Don’t just do something! Sit there!”
Instead of scampering to do something to fix the situation or the person, to change them and make them feel “better”, take time to listen and be curious. What is going on for them? What is going on under the surface of the complaint? You can be like a compassionate detective listening at deeper and deeper levels for the pain and longing of another.
“Doesn’t that get exhausting?” you might ask. It can. If you feel like you’re being overrun or steamrolled or in the way of a fire hydrant gushing words and emotions all over you, then you might feel exhausted or used. It doesn’t have to be that way though. Listening to someone can be like dancing with their energy or flowing with the stream of their words and emotions. You don’t have to turn all that energy into something else. You can be with them and listen.
You can care without fixing. You can do this. It’s a super power we all can cultivate.
Deep Listening is a class that teaches you these skills. It can help you go deeper and deeper. It can also help you at work. As another client said to me “I’m able to listen to my coworker without jumping in to give her advice. She seems to really like that. It’s so easy. I think it’s like cheating. I’m getting credit for doing something to make her feel better by not doing anything to make her feel better.” This seeming paradox comes up a lot when you just listen.
By doing this “nothing”, you are doing something very valuable. You are validating another human with your presence. You are saying “You matter enough for me to spend this time with you.” You are also saying “I trust you. You are a big person and you can handle your life. You don’t need me to rescue you.” People like that. Plus, if you really want to give advice or help you can ask the other person “Would you like my advice or help in some way?” This is consent. This gives them the power of asking for help and not being at the mercy of whatever you want to dish out. You’ll be surprised at how much people open up to you when you do that.
What’s in it for you? Conversations are easier. You don’t have to work so hard. You get to feel more connected. People like you more. You get more ease in your relationships. You may even save your marriage. Or start dating after a decade of avoiding people. Or feel more at home in your own life than you ever have. Miracle happen. I’d love to share them with you.
We’re currently developing the self-study version of Deep Listening. Stay tuned! We also offer it as a live online weekly class. Next class starts early February. Let us know if you are interested.