I get to teach my class about the art of active listening and it always seems to be a difficult concept for some to pick up. Not sure why that is but I do know it is something that we all could use a little refresher course in.
Active listening can mean many things. It can be used by anyone and it can be very effective in communicating or conveying compassion. In order to be able to look at another viewpoint or another person’s perception using “borrowed insight”; you have to get your mind off of yourself and onto the person you are listening to.
I see the lack of active listening or looking at someone’s situation with borrowed insight as a way for us to avoid engaging with someone because it would make us uncomfortable. For example, when faced with the awkward position of having to comfort a person who is grieving, we find ourselves looking for any way to get out of it. To get a way from what makes us uncomfortable.
If you don’t think a grieving parent or a grieving spouse doesn’t pick up on that awkwardness, you are dead wrong. It becomes the very wedge between relationships with friends, with spouses and with family. All because we don’t know how to actively listen or to see with “borrowed insight”. I think in large part because we live in a “it’s all about me” society. We want it now or not at all.
That inability to stop and get quiet and focus on someone else is what keeps some people from moving forward in their grief. The voice that needs to be heard, the pain that needs to be released, the memories that need to be relived are silenced by the lack of compassion because it makes us uncomfortable.
Tonight I was listening to a group of leaders talk about how to manage a situation. I too found it hard to stay focused on what each person was bringing to the table. I kept thinking about what I thought would work or wouldn’t work. But then it happened. I heard a cry for help from someone and I heard it loud and clear. It was as if all the other voices were silenced and I heard her speak clearly.
So I know it works. Take more time to quiet your own agenda and get involved in listening to the pain and anguish of the people who are right in front of you. Because they are there, waiting for you to listen.
Until next time