Therapists are taught to listen, mostly to the in-between where the truth is, in what is not said, in body language, in facial expressions, in hesitation, discomfort and sometimes even obvious lies. We are taught to listen differently in ways that could benefit all of us actually.
I would bet five bucks that you have had an exasperating moment recently when you thought, People just don’t listen. You are right. Most people don’t listen well, and they don’t for a variety of reasons, most of which are fear based. We have a tendency to make a snap judgment about people or their issue. In doing so, we miss a world of opportunity to go deeper into understanding each other, learning about diversity and difference, chances to deepen our relationships and families and the world around.
When you can’t or don’t listen at a deeper level, you may as well be locked in a box with only your own perceptions and limited ideas. It’s like living with the windows and doors to a greater realty shuttered, your level of consciousness. You can’t learn. You can’t create a greater understanding of people and the world and you can’t expand in knowledge and wisdom. Being closed minded fosters confusion and creates distance. It shatters families and causes divorces. Whereas being open minded creates learning opportunities and an expansive level of acceptance and grace. It’s character building and worth the effort.
I have learned that one of the most important questions in my tool bag as a therapist and as a compassionate human being is, what don’t I know. That question opens up curiosity and leads to more questions like what am I hoping to hear, what am I afraid to hear, why am I feeling disconnected and what don’t I trust about myself and my own safety?
Perhaps if we could listen differently we could create less distance and hostility. For instance, in L.A., years ago, a couple of women came in for therapy. One, who I will call Sue, was dressed in a business suit and looked professional and somewhat at ease. The other was tattooed from head to toe, had an angry expression and was clearly pissed about being in my office. I asked what brought them in.
Erin motioned to Sue, to start talking. Sue explained that she had become fearful of Erin because her anger has caused her to start being physical and although she had not hurt her badly, Sue was afraid it would progress to that and their marriage was in jeopardy. I watched as Sue spoke and clearly Erin was uncomfortable. I asked her what she felt about what Sue had said. She took a deep breath and tried to hold back tears, toughly responding “I love her and would never want to hurt her.” I said I believed her and asked her where she thought the anger was coming from. She said she grew up with many tough challenges. Sue put her hand lovingly on Erin’s shoulder and said, softly, “Tell her.” Erin then disclosed that she had watch her father kill her mother when she was a teen and had never processed the trauma or the pain with anyone.
We live in a world of judgment. So much so that many of us never talk about our pain and suffering, our challenges and we don’t even speak about our accomplishments for fear people will think we are bragging. What might happen if we could learn not to judge anyone but rather just be open to knowing each other and what unfolds in the center of our relationships. Wouldn’t know what others have overcome and how others have achieved what they have achieved, inspire us? Maybe the next time we say “Tell me who you are, we could mean it.”
That openness,– in that in between – is teaching both for the teller and the listener. It doesn’t even matter what truth is there. It’s only matters what our response to that sacred space filled with opportunity makes us feel. It’s all about how we respond, what are our values, what are our judgments and what is our heart space. And, if your heart breaks open as you hear and hold the truth, you have done what you came there to do, because under that broken heart is the real you, the unprotected, courageous you.
© Dr. Dina Bachelor Evan 2018. All rights reserved. No part of the intellectual property of Dr. Dina Evan may be reproduced, placed on mechanical retrieval system, transmitted in any form by electronic, video, laser, mechanical photocopy, recording means or otherwise in part or in whole, without written permission of the author. Contents are fully copyrighted and may not be owned by any other individual or organization.