'At least once in every person’s life there is a need to tell our story and know that we have been heard.'
As you settle down to read this article, perhaps with a cup of coffee in hand, I would like you to pause for a moment and think about when you were last listened to and really heard.
Life for you may be really busy; modern technology has revolutionised the way we communicate with one another, whether it be in our personal lives or in our work lives. It is so quick to text someone, e-mail, or use social networking sites to update people on the every day things in life, isn’t it? Just with these helpful symbols “J” and “L” we can tell our friends a little of how we feel about the news we have received. Not only can we communicate with someone nearby: we can talk to people all around the world, taking just seconds to give the information which previously would have taken days or months to be communicated.
However, do we really listen? In December 2012 the Joseph Rowntree Foundation released findings of their research stating that 60% of young people experience loneliness at some point in their lives. Recently I listened to someone who said:
“I am going through a hard time, I am living alone, and I feel like I am staring at the roof and the four walls. I can contact friends on my phone or by text or e-mail, I have over 600 friends on facebook but it’s not the same as seeing people face to face. I hate the silence, I put my music up loud to drown out the silence and make it feel as if someone is with me. It seems like the world is going on outside my little box and I am not part of it.”
This young person was in her 20’s, wanting to connect at a deeper level with people. Social networking was leading to isolation rather than connecting her with the world.
The Mental Health Foundation also supports the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and their research. Furthermore, The Lonely Society Report states that 60% of those between 18 and 34 experience loneliness. This report goes on to highlight how loneliness impacts both physical and mental health and wellbeing; this is young people experiencing hurt and pain.
Take a look at this Peanuts Cartoon from the Los Angeles Times and see what Lucy and Charlie Brown think about the importance of listening.
Needing Someone to Listen
Human beings are created to be social beings. The person who I was listening to needed these three things: to tell her story; for her voice to be heard; and her concerns to be listened to.
Really listening well means so much more than just hearing words and noting information. It’s about being with someone, caring for and valuing the person you are listening to. It is about giving them time and space to speak and then as a listener responding in a way that shows them that they have been heard. It’s so much more than a quick text or a “J”. It is a gift, providing a safe place for someone to come as they are and tell their story.
Once there was a Managing Director of a large business. He was desperately trying to chair a meeting where an important decision needed to be made; however, when he looked up from his notes and glanced around the board room table, he saw every member of his meeting either tapping away on their laptops or texting on their smart phones. Were people listening well enough to make good decisions? Was the managing director being listened to? Perhaps this is something you can identify with. Are there moments at work when you are not listened to, or you don’t listen? Maybe this is a challenge to consider; a change in attitude to listening can transform this type of situation completely.
I wonder how much work place misunderstanding and stress is down to poor listening.
Perhaps it’s time to reflect a little. Take a moment to complete this sentence:
When I am not listened to I feel...
Now, have a go at this one:
When I am listened to I feel...
Have you begun to see the contrast between the two? Maybe now it is easier to grasp the importance of being listened to, whether it is at home, at work or in social situations.
Acorn Christian Healing Foundation enables people to have the opportunity to become good listeners through the training courses that are on offer. Christian listening is about listening to others; it is also about listening to ourselves and listening to God. Listening well helps us to improve relationships, grow as people and deepen our spirituality. It can be life changing stuff. Being taught how to listen can bring with it empowerment, clarity, self esteem, and promotes healthy lives and relationships.
Listening is a skill that can be learnt and developed and Acorn has developed courses to do just this. This is listening which enables the listener to access a presence which understands and does not judge. It is listening which offers attentiveness to the other, and invites confidence, so that by the end of the time together the speaker feels they can fully express themselves. This could bring support and hope in at a time of hurt and pain. However, it isn’t a skill designed to sort people out instead it is designed to:
- Help people to get out what’s locked in
- Help people to move forward
- Help people identify feelings
- Affirm people by reflecting back their own words.
Picture this scene. A young person comes home from college, really excited by a new opportunity she has been given at school. She rushes in the kitchen and tells her mum who says “that’s nice dear” and then speeds over to her younger sister who is on the Wii and grunts back ”not now”. The moment is gone.
Have you ever had one of these times yourself? Times when you are desperate to share something which is on your heart, but whoever you’re sharing it with just isn’t listening to you. Can you identify the feelings? What if the person you were sharing with had come alongside you, offered you space, security, was reflective, and respected you for what you were giving them the privilege to hear? Acorn Christian Listening can teach you to listen in that way.
Become a Listener
Once listening training has been completed you will then have a skill to use within relationships, within with the work place and within the community you live in. People who listen well can transform the lives of people who have a story to tell, stories which need to be heard.
I’ll share with you some comments from Acorn Course participants.
- “There is much more to listening than everybody thinks.”
- “I have learnt how important it is for people to know that they are being listened to.”
- “I understand now the value of being able to listen without interruption.”
This form of listening does make a difference to those of any age who have a story to tell. It makes a difference to those who are hurting and in pain. Research by a number of organisations such as The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Child line, The Mental Health Foundation, and Age UK all recognise good listening makes a difference to people’s health and well being.
Find out more on www.acornchristian.org