This week we have a guest post from Chi Phan, working to bring out more authenticity, creativity and expression in people.
Image: Listen Carefully by Justin Lynham
It was becoming clearer by the day – depression was creeping in. Frightened, I called a trusted friend. He agreed to give me some time, but it was no more than one minute before he started interjecting with advice and telling me how I was being negative for no good reason.
Now I was hurt, and angry. Could he not see what a state I was in? True as it may have been, such wisdom was not what I needed at the time! It suddenly dawned on me that he may have heard my words but he did not listen to me. He probably had no idea how I felt…
Despite being fundamental to any relationship, good listening is rare in daily life. When in a conversation, our minds are often too busy thinking of clever responses to concentrate on what is being said. Sometimes we simply have no interest in what the other is sharing, we have our own worries! At other times, judgment gets in the way.
Pure listening is an act of kindness. It requires giving up our ego. To truly listen, we need to first stop projecting; coincidentally the word “listen” has the same letters as the word “silent”. Being a good listener also means dropping judgment. Often our preconception of a person and our opinion on what they say impede real understanding.
When the mind struggles to focus and the heart finds it difficult to open, it is kindness that will help us hold a generous, open space for connection. Being fully present in a conversation, we become mindful of the other person as a whole – what emotion underpins the story, what is important but not being said in words?
The next time you have a conversation, notice when your mind wanders off, broaden your attention to the essence of the person, and feel the change in connection.
Being listened to with attention and compassion is a wonderful experience that can relieve some of the deepest emotional struggles. I am therefore looking to build a community of conscious listeners and spread kindness in the process.
I want to end this post with an extract from a Facebook post by Elizabeth Gilbert. We have all been taught to be nice and listen – it is a social construct grounded in politeness. To be kind and listen, is a different concept altogether.
“You can be “nice” to someone while still sort of hating them. You can be nice through clenched teeth and strained nerves. Niceness can be dishonest, and sometimes has to be dishonest — just to keep the peace […]
But kindness is deeper. Kindness is better. Kindness is soft and real and true and bottomless. Kindness never patronizes, never puts on an act. Kindness never judges. Kindness never clenches its teeth. Kindness never blames. Kindness sees the situation from every angle, and even when weary, Kindness always finds the empathy to say. “That’s OK. These things happen. Life is hard.”[…]Kindness always means it”