Growing up in my household, if someone was upset they talked about their feelings. We didn’t brush things under the rug. We didn’t allow for passive aggressiveness. We spoke our feelings, and we worked to understand one another. We focused on communication. It came naturally to me. Well, sort of…
My mom and I fought. A lot. We would talk at each other, yell at each other, and try, try, try to get our points across. My Dad and I debated. Sometimes it ended with an eye roll. Many times it ended with me storming out of the room. If I was really heated I’d end it with a juicy door slam.
But the confrontation always ended with a sit down to discuss our feelings. We never went to bed mad or misunderstanding one another. After all the battling we finally surrendered to hearing each other. If any of us had known what we know now, we would have been able to eradicate all that destructive, energetically draining fighting. We would have been able to see and hear each other the moment it was needed.
When we fight we are often battling to be heard. Most of us don’t feel seen. Deeply seen. We’re longing to be acknowledged for the way we feel.
The problem is that both people are often in that same place, desperately desiring the other person to really hear them. From that place of neediness, we get into survival mode. We don’t feel heard so we don’t feel safe. We don’t feel safe so we defend ourselves. It can get ugly from here fast.
A few years ago I was dating someone, and we decided to watch Oprah interviewing Thich Nhat Han. Thich Nhat Han spoke about deep listening, and deep listening is a game changer. In order to communicate well, we have to be willing to truly hear what the other person is saying. He said that people want to know you hear them and that you’re there. He said to simply listen and respond, “Darling, I’m here for you.”
To really hear someone means you aren’t waiting to speak. It means you aren’t ready to pounce on them. It means you are receptive and willing to hear what it is they have to say. Not to interpret what they are saying into what you think they are saying, but to actually truly hear them.
For most of us, this little tool is revolutionary. Because the thing is, you’ll have a chance. You’ll have your moment to voice your thoughts and feelings, too. When we’re in survival mode we act frantically. We feel like we have to get it all out now or we won’t have a chance. We feel like we’re being attacked, and we have to defend ourselves. But really, the other person just wants to be heard and acknowledged for their own feelings.
When you begin to deeply listen you are allowing the other person to be human. You are witnessing their humanity, and that is something most human beings don’t get. We feel glanced over far too often. We feel voiceless and sometimes invisible. We want to be heard and without judgement. We want our feelings to be ok.
When we stop speaking long enough to really listen we give each other a beautiful gift, and from that place our communication changes. When communication changes so do our relationships. From this place, everything can transform.
I’m curious, have you ever practiced deep listening? What was your experience? If not, maybe give it a try this week and seeing how it goes. I look forward to hearing your insights in the comments below!