Heard and Held: make listening your superpower
“To listen… is to hold people, to give them the hug they may long for and that you may wish to offer them but which right now, we’re not able to do”.
As I mentioned in my previous blog about resilience and emotions, like many of us, I’ve been wondering how I can best be useful right now. I know a lot of people who are frontline workers, employers of others, parents and carers for people at home, shoppers and helpers. I am trying my best to do some of those things (the shopping, being a parent, keeping my business going). But surely there must be something else I can do to put the skills and resources I have to best use?
My first response is to check-in with people who are doing frontline work right now or with people whose jobs have also become much tougher: the friends who are teachers, nurses, midwives, NHS managers, shop workers, employers of others, creatives who’ve lost their income; to let them know I’m here if they need someone to talk to, sending messages of support and gratitude.
And that got me thinking that being heard, being able to share the very emotion of what’s going on a personal level, the roller-coaster that is feeling OK one minute and far from OK the next, of feeling grateful and overwhelmed in quick succession, of feeling one set of emotions (perhaps those which feel uncomfortable – guilt, anger, frustration, jealousy, self-pity) when you think you ought to be feeling others (maybe gratitude, appreciation, calm); is not only important, it’s essential to our wellbeing.
Being able to articulate how we feel to someone who is listening without judgement, with their full attention to you and only you, is a valuable gift which brings ease to some of those feelings, validates the emotions as well as the whole person feeling them and helps everyone feel valued, supported and held, even if only for a while.
People who’ve been on any of my coach training, will know that I stress emphatically and often the truth that listening really well, with our full attention, is one of the most important gifts we can give to people. Think about it, when was the last time, even before the current situation hit, that you were really, properly heard? It’s rare – and yet at times like these, I’d say it’s vital, because to listen in this way is to hold people, to give them the hug they may long for and that you may wish to offer them but which right now, we’re not able to do. Listen instead. Listen unconditionally, with compassion and humility and with a clear intention to do so. That way, you’re being truly useful.
If you’d like to learn a bit more about listening well to support colleagues or friends, I’m running a 1-hour webinar on Monday 27th April at 11am. Come along if you’re interested in:
• Being a good support for my colleagues while working from home
• Setting boundaries which are useful for your colleagues and yourself
• Listening really well, even from a screen
• Asking questions which make a positive difference
• Making sure you stay OK
You’ll receive a useful workbook containing tools and resources and a recording of the session.