It seems that everywhere we turn, most people are
talking and very few are actually listening.
A few days ago a dear friend called me to say, “Hello.” Shortly into the conversation, I sensed a twinge of pain in the tone of her voice. When I asked her if everything was okay, she opened up and expressed that she was feeling a lot of frustration from speaking to her sister on the phone the previous day. My friend explained that she had called her sister to discuss an emotionally challenging situation. “My sister just talked over me and never heard a word I said,” lamented my friend. “What hurts most is that I just wanted to talk through my situation with someone who loves me and who could acknowledge my feelings.”
Does this sound familiar?
It is understandable that most people are not clear enough to listen because the majority of us are walking around with unexpressed feelings. Coping with the ordinary and extraordinary challenges of life can tap us out emotionally, mentally, and physically. Since it is not socially acceptable to cry at work, hit someone with whom we are angry, or to scream in public, many times we just bury our feelings. The problem with this is that repressing our feelings can create a reservoir of pain that can eventually fuel an emotional outburst at an inappropriate time and place that is not even relevant to the original situation. Or, even worse, we can continue to keep our feelings locked inside, which many times results in some form of dis-ease.
What most of us are really craving is simply to be heard!
I have come to the conclusion that listening is an art, and like most artistic expression, it needs to be developed and practiced in order to become good at it. Creating a non-judgmental, open space of communication that allows one person to talk while the other just listens is spiritually referred to as “holding the space.” In the world of psychological counseling, it is referred to as “reflective listening.”
Listening without judgment is an act of self-love.
Holding a non-judgmental space to listen to another person’s expression of feelings is not an act of selflessness. In fact, it is an act of self-love that helps to free you from being attached to other people’s issues. It is an exercise in letting go of our own ego, rising above the drama, and extending the utmost respect for others by acknowledging that we each have the inner wisdom to provide the answers to our own questions. Since what we project is what we attract, chances are that when you practice being a good listener, someone will be there to hear you in your time of need.
The following are guidelines to assist you in holding the
space for another by being a good listener.
1. Make an agreement between yourself and the speaker. Only one person talks at a time while the other simply listens. Give your complete, undivided attention to the person who is talking. If this is an in-person discussion, it is ideal to maintain eye contact.
2. Be fair to yourself. Agree that there will be no personal attacks – you are there to listen to feelings, not to be verbally abused.
3. Tap into an inner sense of stillness that enables you to be an observer of the conversation, rather than a participant in the drama.
4. Neutralize the space by choosing not to interpret anything that is being said as a personal attack. This is easy to do when you remember the truth that what people project onto others is a reflection of how they feel about themselves – not you.
5. Let go of all judgement. There is no need for you to “fix” anything. The person who is expressing their feelings is usually not seeking any answers from you. In fact, many times the person who is talking becomes aware of their own resolutions after they have had an opportunity to clear their emotions through expression.
6. When you have allowed a period of listening time that is fair for both you and the other person, bring the conversation to a gentle close by summarizing aloud your perceptions of the feelings that have been expressed to you. For example, you could say something like, “So I am hearing you say that you feel sad, frustrated, angry, etc.” This reinforces that we have, indeed, been listening.
7. Remain unattached to how things unfold. We all have our own lessons to learn in our own unique ways.
Holding space for another is a profound way to bring more love to the world because we are listening with our hearts. If we each had someone to listen to our feelings in an open space of no judgement, we would more easily experience personal peace. And if more of us were feeling peaceful, what a bright world this would be!
Do you have any suggestions or experiences you would like to share regarding holding space? We would love to hear from you!
Love and Light,