In one of my favorite Young Adult books, Just Listen by Sarah Dessen, the main character Annabel is given a series of CD’s by her love interest, all with different types and styles of music on them. But the CD that means the most is the one labelled “Just listen”. On this CD, there is silence. That silence effects Annabel in a very profound way and leads her to make some very deep insights into herself.
But why? Why does silence effect her in such an important way? In my opinion, it is partially because we live in a society where there is so much noise. Think about it- when is the last time that you experienced real, true silence? We are constantly inundated with social media updates, new stories, people talking, and everything of the like. When is the last time that you felt like someone was really, truly listening to you?
As a counselor, I have come to value silence because it means that someone is listening. One of the most valuable things that I can do for another human being is listen, give them my full and total attention and value their point-of-view. This is more difficult than one would expect, as judgement and the inner dialogue must be suspended to really, truly understand what the other person is saying.
This is something that is almost always a goal in couple’s counseling as well. It is always surprising how many couples are not truly listening to each other, even though it may appear like they are. Many times they are communicating to win, not communicating to understand. If this is the strategy, I am fond of saying, you may win the fight but you will lose the relationship.
What about you? Do you truly listen to those around you? This may be a skill that you need to cultivate and work on. A few tips:
- Let your body language show that you are truly listening to what the other has to say. Turn your body towards that person and model openness.
- Suspend your inner dialogue. It is tempting to think of counter-points to what a person is saying, or think about how wrong they are. Don’t fall into that temptation!
- Practice saying back to the person what they were saying in a different way. This forces you to truly pay attention, plus makes the person feel heard and understood.
Do you need more help with some of these skills? I would be happy to sit down with you and help you master these skills! Do you need someone to just sit and listen to you? I’m happy to be that companion. Give me a call if you need help with the art of listening.