A Space to Listen…

Listening is not only the act of hearing the words being spoken but is the art of understanding the meaning behind those words.  As human beings, being heard is one of the fundamental needs in our existence and not having that need fulfilled can affect us on many different levels.  Being heard is the primary way we transfer knowledge and ideas.  As inherently sociable beings, it also plays a vital role in decision making and can affect our self-esteem on a fundamental level.  Regardless of if we actively strive not to rely on external validation as a measure of our self-worth, being truly heard does still play a core role in growth and thriving in an environment that allows us to bloom as humans.

“When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.”

This quote by Alexander Den Heijer allows us to shift perspective, and reminds us to be a lot more gentle with ourselves.  We are the sum of what we surround ourselves with and so inherently our environment can affect who and what we project into the world.  Something that seems as simple as having a safe space to be heard and understood can hugely affect our feelings of happiness, stability, productivity and fulfillment in this existence.

A person can hear you without “listening”, but to be truly heard is the root of feeling understood.  Being heard is to openly hold space for someone, without judgement or distraction and this is a learnable skill that each of us should strive to practice on a daily basis.  Creating this space for our loved ones, colleagues in the work environment, acquaintances but most importantly for ourselves allows us to live more mindfully.  It’s that curiosity, the “tell me more”, that moment when you feel the space open, making that connection, intentionally listening to what the other person is trying to convey whether verbally or non-verbally to reach that understanding, to actually perceive without judgement or distraction what that person is communicating into the world.

Don’t get me wrong, miscommunication is an absolutely normal thing but intentionally hearing with insight and wisdom can move mountains in relationships and interactions with the people around us.  That flip of the switch from being listened to, where someone can simply parrot back to you the words that you were saying, to being truly heard and feeling understood, valued and respected requires a change in perspective and a good deal of empathy from the “listener”.  Because as humans, we inherently will perceive and relate to what someone is saying through our own truths, opinions and experiences, it absolutely takes a conscious movement and decision to truly hear what someone is saying.  Bearing in mind that you don’t actually need to agree with someone to truly hear what they are trying to communicate, and being able to set aside your own opinion and experiences to be able to fully absorb and interpret what is being said in the way that it was intended to be received, is something that takes effort.

It’s something that we, as humans, consciously need to do, to learn and to practice this skill.  To be more mindful when interacting with others, to not wait on your turn to speak or think about your response while someone is still trying to convey their own message.  This all takes effort.

Simply setting aside your phone, switching off the television or other forms of distraction while communicating are small things that we can do to be more present.  Being mindful that communication is not only the words being said but also a form of conveying emotion and experiences that are felt so differently by each and every one of us and taking the time to openly hold space for those around us are the simple things that we can consciously choose to do, that will inherently change the way we experience our environment for the better…