Shortly after we were married my husband and I had an argument about communication.
It started when I was sharing something that was extremely important to me.
While he was listening to me, he was also watching TV.
His body continued to face the TV. And he remained riveted on the football game.
Of course, he was listening to me. But at the same time, because his attention was so divided, it was impossible for him to really hear me.
Over the years, we have both become much better at picking more appropriate times to share something important. And much better at listening.
And of course, with better communication there have been far fewer misunderstandings and arguments.
I think most of us tend to be pretty good at talking.
But generally we are not as good at listening.
I think it is because we all desire to communicate our points and our ideas and feelings. Seeking to be heard, and to be understood.
And we all yearn for friends who are prepared to sit in the space with us. Companions who are willing to walk alongside us, regardless of whether we are walking through summer or winter seasons.
Yet, in order for such authentic, committed friendships to form and thrive, there must be room, and permission, for each person to both talk and listen.
And not to just a listening to the words that are being spoken, but a listening for the feelings and thoughts contained within the message. Listening to identify the underlying themes and feelings that are unknowingly or indirectly being communicated.
Perhaps the speaker is struggling to find just the right words. Or maybe they are afraid to own, or express, what they are thinking or feeling. And perhaps while the speaker recognizes they are upset – they have failed to pinpoint the reasons why.
So this requires a more intentional kind of listening, one that is focused on trying to accurately grasp, and understand, what another is trying to articulate.
A type of listening that occurs with our ears, but also with our hearts.
Listening to hear what they are trying to say, rather than thinking about all we are going to say in response.
Giving them our full attention. Where we have eliminated anything that has the potential to distract us.
Where we intentionally use our posture to indicate we are listening. Positioning our bodies, turning to face the speaker, making eye contact possible.
Where we use our comments to briefly restate or summarize what we think they have been sharing. Using questions to clarify what we have not understood or where we need more clarification. Choosing responses that help to ensure that we have heard them correctly, and understood.
Listening is an amazing gift.
It is a statement about the degree to which we are willing to sit with someone, wherever they are at, regardless of what they are walking through.
And it reveals the degree we are committed to another. And the degree to which we are prepared to invest and help the relationship flourish.
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Photo credits: rawpixel-com and Korney Violin, from Unsplash