I think we all feel that we could be better listeners, don’t we? Or at least many of us do. But do we realise the true impact of listening from the heart when someone we know is upset or in distress?
I hadn’t really thought about this so much until it happened to me the other day. To give you a little context I’ll just explain that I had woken up in the night around 3 am and couldn’t sleep, and for some reason I started investigating online into alcoholism. I’ve seen a lot of very serious, “far gone” alcoholics in parks and squares etc, who sleep rough, and I was wondering if they could all become sober, or if some physically couldn’t survive without the alcohol in their system. I was thinking about it because I remembered a conversation with one homeless man who explained to me that when he drank water he would throw up and that the only thing that would “normalise” his body was alcohol. I didn’t understand this at the time, but after my late night investigation, I’ve come to comprehend it a little better, by reading this article about the about the “myths and realities of alcoholism”: http://www.lakesidemilam.com/alcohol-drug-addiction/under-the-influence/a-guide-to-the-myths-and-realities-of-alcoholism/
Anyway, back to the topic in hand: listening. When I woke the next morning I was very distressed by what I had learnt, as I have a close family member who is an alcoholic, and I felt so bad that I hadn’t understood their condition before and that I had been judgmental towards them.
Thankfully, my husband was at my side, ready to listen carefully to my inner suffering. I asked him to close the computer and to put away his phone and that he look at me. I know that all sounds very demanding, but I found that I physically couldn’t tell him anything of importance unless he gave me his undivided attention. And when he did, it was like a soothing balm to my spirit. When he looked at me and listened and understood I felt such relief and healing; I was able to unburden my sorrows and feel so much lighter afterwards.
One of the reasons why it is so important for me to feel listened to is that my “Love Language” is Quality Time. I don’t know if you have studied or even heard of the “5 Love Languages”, if not, I recommend you investigate them as they are extremely beneficial too all, not only married couples. This is a nice little video in which Dr. Gary Chapman gives a brief overview of the 5 Love Languages and their importance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gp5TUhTsxPw
Everyone feels better after being listened to without interruptions, unwanted advice or judgement. However, those of us whose “Love Language” is Quality Time need to be listened to in this way in order to stay emotionally sane. It’s easy to fall into the trap of labelling someone as “attention seeking” or “immature” when they tell us to put down our smartphone / newspaper or turn off the TV / computer and give them our undivided attention. But it’s not that at all. I can tell you that when I’m not listened to I feel ignored, unloved, frustrated and alone. But 5 – 10 minutes (or more!) of being listened to in a meaningful way can make a HUGE difference; a world of difference. It’s very powerful.