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.


The Lenoxes said...

Thanks for the reminder of that phrase! I was remembering the concept over the last few weeks but couldn't remember the exact words or who said it. Good to know. AND it's so true. True acceptance...seems simple, but it's one of the hardest things to "get"...for me anyway! Love you and thanks for being you and such a wonderful mom!

Mary Burleson said...

Hey, Mel, I agree. True acceptance seems simple. But, for me it is the opposite. My default mode is to judge and advise. But, I'm a living example that you can teach old dogs new tricks. I can change. I'm learning daily. Too bad that I usually learn by mistakes and hindsight is my teacher.
I love you too, very much. And thanks to you for being such a wonderful daughter. I've learned much from you and your approach to life. I'm grateful.

Bobby Brown said...

I once served on the board of Hospice. They taught us when we were in the presence of a grieving person and they began to tell us all their troubles with tears to simply listen to them. We were not to try to comfort them other than to listen and let them cry. The expression they used was "tears heal the soul like salt heals a wound. Thanks for reminding me not to be a fixer.