One of the greatest luxuries these days is being genuinely listened to.
Think about it for a moment. How many times have you heard someone say that they haven’t shared a problem with friends or family because they ‘don’t want to burden them’.
And how often, when you have asked someone how they are, have they responded within seconds by the standard answer ‘fine thanks’.
We have probably all felt at times as though it is easier to say that you are fine rather than give an honest answer as to how you are actually doing.
Everything seems to be so rushed these days. It can sometimes feel that wherever we are, we are in a hurry to be somewhere else.
On top of this society expects us to be contactable at every minute of the day.
We can receive messages by phone, text, whatsapp, email, messenger... and that’s to name but a few.
Even when we meet friends socially, we can often be found checking our phones to make sure we haven’t missed a message from someone else.
All of this means that it is actually very rare to have someone’s full concentration – someone who has the time to listen to you and is genuinely concentrating on what you say.
At the same time there is a lot of interesting research about the positive effects of therapy.
It generally suggests that a good relationship between client and therapist is more significant in leading to positive outcomes than any particular therapeutic modality.
Clients often say that they benefit from being listened to in an environment where they do not feel judged.
We also know that very sadly in this country, there are simply not enough mental health resources to guarantee a therapist to everyone who might need one.
All this makes me wonder how different society might be if every person had someone in their life whom they could talk to.
Someone who had the time to really listen and did so without judgment. When you are able to talk to someone who is available to listen and does not try and solve things on your behalf – it gives you the space to sort things out and start finding ways forward for yourself.
Being asked to explain your situation or your feelings to another person can be a useful way of getting some clarity on it.
One very simple step that many people have now started doing is asking the ‘how are you’ question twice.
Following up the first ‘how are you’ with a second ‘how are you really?’ can be an easy way of giving someone a chance to share their real feelings rather than just given an automatic answer. And if someone does start to open up about how they are feeling, giving them a few minutes of your undivided attention with no phones or other distractions can be enormously valuable.
One of the most precious gifts that we can ever give anyone is time.
Time is limited for all of us, so is naturally very precious.
When you combine the gift of time with that of genuine and authentic listening, then you are creating a very valuable gift indeed.
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