• Monday, March 16th, 2009

The best moments in life are those most difficult to describe in words. They are the moments you feel deeply heard and understood by another. I can recall a recent moment between good friends. Hanna & Colleen were part of a foursome in college who became a closely knit family. For ten years they cared for each other in ways that their own families had failed them. Hanna recently became engaged and realized that she could not be as close to these friends as she once had. After a trip they had taken together, Hanna described to Colleen that she was feeling a bit left out and that she felt pulled between wanting to be close to her fiancé and wanting to remain as close to their friends as she had always been.

Hanna spoke with caution, unsure of how Colleen would respond to her feelings. I noticed how her words trembled a bit and she would say things like, “I am not mentioning this to hurt you, I just want you to know how I am feeling.” Colleen, with a tender, unbroken gaze, listened patiently not interrupting nor defending herself. As Hanna continued to explain her experience she fumbled over her words struggling to get her message out. When she finally finished she took a deep breath. With one simple and gentle sentence Colleen said, “Don’t worry Hanna; you are not going to lose us.” Hanna’s eyes immediately filled with tears. She realized what she had been trying to say was, “I’m scared to lose you.” Colleen not only heard the words that Hanna spoke; she heard what Hanna was unable to express in words, she heard the deep longings of Hanna’s heart.

What is it about people like Colleen who add such healing qualities to their relationships? As I reflect on that conversation, I realize that Colleen could be with Hanna in her pain, because she recognized that same pain in herself and had tended to it.

The following 6 qualities will help you too, listen with an open heart:

  • Don’t run from your pain – Embrace your pain, allow it to teach you
  • Remain open and nonjudgmental – Remember that we all have different understandings of our experiences
  • Be with the person, don’t fix them – Allow the person to experience and express difficult emotions
  • Affirm how the other person feels – Notice the person’s emotions, express what you notice
  • Stay Connected not reactive – Ask yourself, “What does this person really need from me right now?”
  • Ask open-ended questions -Open ended questions help you know the person’s intentions and gain details.

When we genuinely listen to others, they experience our care as enlivening and empowering them.  Growth comes from having someone hear the most vital parts of you are. This allows you to gain a deeper understanding of yourself and your relationships. Just as Hanna discovered her deeper longings and felt more connected to Colleen, you also can live with greater awareness deepening your relationships. Consider someone in your life who you’d like to hear more fully.

Category: Relationships
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