March 28th, 2013
Do you ever feel completely unheard? How good of a listener are you?
Sadie, the counselling dog, loves to listen!
Recently I was speaking with a highly valued friend and mentor about counselling and how to improve one's skills. We were discussing the value of various training techniques and he simply said that the most important thing to do was to listen. To really listen to our clients. In many ways, I already know and apply this concept but then he suggested that I sit back in my seat and watch my client, not just for what they are saying, but for what they are NOT saying. To not just listen to the words but to be aware of the message is as a whole.
The analogy he used was music. We listen to music but it is not just the notes that we listen to. It is often the silence between the notes or the pathos of the music that sweeps us away. I recall one conductor, named Benjamin Zander, saying that playing the piano should be one buttock playing. In other words, the pianist should be so impassioned by the music that one buttock rises into the air while the other remains on the seat.
And so it is with listening. When I really listen to my clients I am taking in what I am seeing as well as what I am not. Recently I had a client in my office that was like a spinning top. Her life was in major turmoil and she was going at a tremendous pace so she didn't have to stop and feel anything. I had her stop and do a simple breathing technique which was the following; close her eyes and breathe in slowly for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds, out for 5 seconds and then hold for 5 seconds. I had her do this 5 times and she smiled at the end and recognized that she was much feeling much more grounded and that she had really needed that!
This applies to you as well. How often do you really listen to that person who irritates you? It is easy when you are in love or when the relationship is new. The other person looks sweet and wonderful and listening comes easily. But what happens when they say or do something that frustrates or angers you? What happens to the listening then?
May I recommend that you sit back in your chair and that you really look at this person. Look at them as though you have never seen them before and without your own agenda dominating the situation. See how they speak and how they gesture with their hands, facial expressions etc. What do they REALLY want from you? Underneath the words, the frustration, what are they looking for?
The same thing we all want.
They want to be loved. They want to be accepted and to be able to just be who they are without criticism or judgment. Are you willing to offer this to them? If so, you are also offering it to yourself and the resulting peace will be its own reward.