Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Listening and Hearing
Years ago I ran across this definition of Encouragement.
Exposure plus Acceptance equals Encouragement!
I was recently part of a group in which people shared with others things that were important to them. I watched and listened as other members of that group quickly jumped in and offered words of advice and fixing words.
Phrases such as "Don't feel bad. You should ..." or "Don't worry about that. Just know that ..." or "I'm sure that will soon pass. Things will be better soon." And on and on.
I checked with two of those who shared and asked them later how the responses to their heartfelt sharing affected them. Both said no, they didn't feel heard, accepted, or encouraged. They felt like others were trying to fix them or make them feel better, and it didn't work.
The same thing happened to me. I answered a question that had been asked, and in context my answer exposed some mistakes I had made. Later two people came up to make sure that I knew that I had done much good, that I shouldn't think bad of myself for my mistakes. Hmmm... I stood there responding politely, but thinking I only answered a question. I wasn't saying my whole life was a failure. I'm not depressed or despondent. Whatever. I certainly did not feel heard or understood but definitely misunderstood and that they thought I needed fixing.
I'm amazed at how often we think it's our job to make sure people don't feel bad, thus totally missing the gift of themselves that they have shared with us.
I want to learn from this. I want to realize and always be alert that when someone is sharing something about themselves that they are sharing a gift with me, a very precious gift. They are exposing their vulnerability. They have opened themselves to me and are letting me share something that's very important to them and about them. Now what do I do?
I hope I can learn to receive that as a precious gift and hold it as very valuable. All I need to do is receive that gift, and in some way that's unique to me and to the one I'm with, show acceptance. Perhaps that just means saying something like, "Thanks for sharing with me." Or, perhaps just give a sincere hug, if appropriate.
I love the saying, perhaps by now a cliché, "People don't care what you know until they know you care." I don't want to 'act like' I care and learn a few 'tricks.' I want to learn to really care and show I care.
What a challenge! Life is a wonderful journey and adventure.