Listening makes all the difference…

I love to help people get seen and be heard, to sparkle and shine as they put their unique message across. I see the mountain (speaking in public) become a little mound as they walk up with a sense of what they are there to do. Everyone has amazing stuff to say. And the world is missing out when they don’t. It has been my privilege to discover this by facilitating dozens and dozens of speaking confidence workshops, which brings me to today.

On the one hand, I lead shy speakers (like me) out of their shells. With baby steps they begin to find their innate ability and confidence to put their voice, their gold dust and their vision over to the rest of us.

On the other hand, it makes my heart sing just as beautifully, to coach anyone who’s interested in being more supportive or helpful, when listening to someone else. Wanting to do the ‘right’ thing. Changing the world one listener at a time. Don’t we all want someone to be there (without talking over us) when we need it most?

Who teaches this stuff unless we happen to take a counselling or mediation course? If we are encouraging people to take #TimetoTalk, then we need to be good listeners. Hearing what they are saying and not saying. Letting them be without jumping in to ‘fix it’. Who’s to say what they need. What we need.

A few years in the summer, a old friend and I met up for tea. We talked about the way things were, and whilst candid about her terminal cancer diagnosis she was her usual droll self, and dry wit, telling like it is. I listened. And listened some more. I acknowledged the reality, the details of her situation: I didn’t shrink from the truth. I echoed what she’d said and stayed true to her telling of it.

Because she was a smart cookie who knows it helps to keep connected beyond the cancer — we went on to talk about what I was up to. See above. Then on the way back to the tube, there was a pause: “Maggie, I’m so grateful you didn’t tell me to be positive”. She wryly outlined some of the clunky comments she’d received.

I treasure that exchange. I never used to know what to say and have been similarly clumsy myself. Yet to know that by listening and accepting EVERYTHING she said and felt, EXACTLY as it was, without needing to fix or advise and then been able to laugh with her, I’d shown my love. It made my heart sing.

True listening is work, precious work. It is hard to stay quiet and accept when it is painful to see or hear the other person in their struggle. It can be truly uncomfortable when not trying to ‘make it better’ or shift someone out of feeling their real feelings. We can’t change things but we often think we must try.

But actual, deep, present, no-distraction listening gives the receiver so much. To sense that someone truly cares about how we feel, is priceless. And so often (I know this from mediating many conflicts and in my own life) a feeling is stuck until it is acknowledged.

We need to be seen and heard to know who we are, and what to do next.

Listening is a way of expressing care, humanity and yes, love, which affects the person being heard in a profound manner that very often brings relief, insights and helps them to help themselves. Our listening talents will help us feel connected each time we do, have wonderful, real conversations with anyone. We bring a gift to each person anytime we truly listen. x