'Are you listening to me or do you just hear what I say?'
Very few of us really know how to listen well. After all, we haven't really been taught how to do it. Think about the last time you felt someone was actively listening.
How did it feel?
When a client comes for therapy it is often the first time in a long while that they feel validated. Being listened to can help us feel better about ourselves. It lets us know that our thoughts, feelings and ideas are valid. They (and therefore us) are being taken taken seriously.
Not only is listening well important in our relationships, (the average couple apparently spends 20 minutes a week talking to each other) but it is also in key to our quality of life.
If we aren't good listeners we miss out on a lot; opportunities to connect, to learn, to develop and that is only the external world. It also affects our internal world. If we literally listen to ourselves we gain insight and self-awareness.
Research has also shown that people who are perceived as good listeners are more respected and influential at work than charismatic or good talkers.
We can choose to listen and I encourage my clients to practice this skill. I often find it is the good talkers who are often overconfident about their listening skills. It is a complicated activity as it involves integrating and understanding verbal messages as well as clarifying information which may not always be that clear.
Like any good skill it needs to be learned and practised. Being present with another is hard work. Yet when we know that someone is listening to us we feel valued. It is a skill which is central to effective therapy and the therapeutic relationship.