As a psychologist I spend a lot of time talking. I have also taken it upon myself over the years to do videos, blog posts, articles, and podcasts to share information related to Addiction and mental health. Sometimes I hit a wall with what I can say. I feel like I’ve “been there, done that,” or that what I have to say is repetitive, useless, or will not be enough to support people. I feel like I’m in one of those modes right now. (I think writers call this “writer’s block” which I have also experienced. This feels similar, but not).
It did get me thinking and reflecting though on the art of conversation and change that many people undervalue, and that is the art of listening.
From my experience, personally and professionally, listening has more power than words will ever have. Generally people are wise and know what they need to do, so in the act of talking and having a person listen and encourage this sharing, they will gain clarity and awareness around action to be taken. Or, if that doesn’t fit with the situation, they will feel a freedom in releasing some of their thoughts, feelings, pain, joy, or whatever they have been carrying. Therefore, as a psychologist I also do a lot of listening and I always find that to be much more rewarding and connecting than when I’m talking.
How do we listen? Some starting suggestions are:
-Truly listen. Don’t be planning out what you’re going to say while someone is sharing. LISTEN to their language, words, message
-Listen to what they are actually saying, as well as what they are not. People’s non-verbals-body language, eye contact, tone, facial expressions-provide so much information that can help us understand what they are saying and how they are feeling
-Empathize. You don’t need to have personally experienced what someone is sharing to relate. Listen to their experience, ask questions to learn more, and be there to understand what they are experiencing without judgment, criticism, or feeling the pressure to fix or change it
-Be compassionate. Listen to support them as they support themselves
-Listen to yourself. Our intuition, feelings, and own thoughts are a strong guide that we often downplay or ignore. Taking time to tune inwards and see where you are at can be more helpful than just going, going, going
Observe what happens as you shift from less talking and sharing to more listening. It is pretty amazing.
By Paige Abbott, Registered Psychologist of Sana Psychological