We so need to listen to one another. Especially we need to hear what we don’t want to hear!
Healing divisions and misunderstandings can only be done by listening to words and ideas that cause discomfort, and bearing this pain.
It has been said that the mind creates the chasm that the heart must leap across.
The leap across the chasm is an act of compassion, and it begins in our heart! What is our intention?
Words often mask meaning, confusing the issue because words mean something different to each of us. Words point to our experience which are always unique to us, but they don’t adequately describe them.
When we assume what another says means to them what it does to us, we will disconnect and divide, and misunderstandings will follow.
When we listen to another we need to go past the words they are saying and into the experience they are trying to communicate.
It would be so helpful if, when we disagree, to inquire first as to what the other person is trying to say, drawing them out without belittling or condemning them.
A friend of mine once said he didn’t mind if others didn’t agree with him, but that he did mind when they disagreed without understanding what he meant.
When we listen to someone we need to keep half our energy inside ourselves (that’s 50%) to note what is going on within. For out of our energy will come our next words. We will either close off, retaliate, (which is reacting) or compassionately listen to and care about what the other person is saying (which is responding.)
When we respond, rather than react, we will say “Tell me more” in some form or another.
This is compassion, which doesn’t make another person wrong. Compassion contains curiosity. We inquire how another sees the issue, drawing them out if possible.
Sometimes words are not needed. An open and loving heart can say it all.
As we pay attention to what is taking place within us as we hear the words of others, we can respond with greater authenticity and wisdom.
Examples of how we may be feeling as we listen to others are: pleasure, anger, dismay, fear, surprise, disgust, sad, joy, etc.
If we get defensive we will know we are not listening compassionately, but are feeling vulnerable and frightened at some level. A power struggle has arisen.
If we are being labeled we will probably feel some anger, rage, or helplessness.
Labeling is always a misunderstanding, as each of us is so much more complex and unique than any label could possibly describe. There is no one exactly like yourself, or anyone else. It is impossible to accurately be placed into any category” such as, “You’re one of those people who always ……………...” Or “It’s your insecurity that is your issue.”
We need to find a way to speak up for ourselves without making the other person wrong, thus we need to listen to ourselves. Are we defensive?
Or just confused? Sometimes we pretend we know what the other person means when he/she speaks as it’s not always easy not to know—to stay in the place that doesn’t know—the unknown.
Often we would rather jump to conclusions and make up stories about what we think they are saying, or come up with a quick fix.
We simply want relief from the insecurity of the unknown.
Sometimes our own unhealed wounds have been triggered by what another has said. This makes it very hard to listen because it brings up our anxiety, conscious or not.
As James Hollis writes, “After all, as Heidegger observed once, ‘the terrible’ has already happened. Acknowledging this means one may find the resolve to feel what one feels, and suffer what one has already suffered, and find the recovery of one’s journey possible once more.”
Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life, pg 229
Let’s give ourselves a big hug and remind us that we have already come through some pretty traumatic stuff. The second shoe has already dropped. We were born and have managed anxiety all these years—and here we are.
To get to where we now stand took grit, some know-how and lots of fumbling and scrambling trying to do it right.
We are now rather experienced travelers and can use we’ve learned to help meet whatever arises in the future.
Our strength is within us. All we need do is listen to our heart—really feel it beating inside. It cares. Just listen, and respond with compassion.
A friend on the journey,