Is Anyone Listening to Me? How to Hold a Loving Space for Communication

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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,

 

 

Sandra

6 thoughts on “Is Anyone Listening to Me? How to Hold a Loving Space for Communication

  1. I love that you likened reflective listening to art! It truly does take practice!
    I recently practiced this with my husband, who has a difficult time expressing his deepest feelings. I had been sensing that he was troubled and each time I asked him if anything was wrong, he responded with his usual “everything is fine.”
    I waited until a time when I sensed that he was ready. Although it took some gentle encouragement, he finally revealed what was weighing him down. I have found that acknowledging feeling and sometimes using some of my own experiences that are similar really helps… at least in this case! The person feels that they are not so alone. Again, as you already stated, it is so important to remain non judge mental!

    • Oops. I was not not finished.
      The best part is that this conversation has brought us even closer and we both feel a sense of renewed purpose. What could be a better Easter-Spring gift than renewal?!

  2. Dear Krinski: You have taken reflective listening to the even deeper level of pro-actively tuning into your husband’s emotions through your heart. By acknowledging your perception of his feelings and encouraging him to express himself, you created a “safe space” for him to become aware of what was bothering him and to actively communicate with you. It was a very loving gesture, and I am not at all surprised that it enabled the two of you to feel even more close.

    Love and Light,
    Sandra

  3. I feel I’m pretty good at this as far as really listening to another as described in your article. The problem I face is rarely having or finding anyone who can be that to me. Paying a psychologist to be that listener.

    You did write if we are that listener to people, then we will more likely attract someone to listen to us. I haven’t found that to be true. Once Iisten in this way, others tend to be all takers so I have “silently” ended friendships due to this. I feel in an ideal relationship, for example, friendship, it would be mutually at times listening to each other rather than one-sided.

    If we all want to be listened to, who will be the listener? Again, I think I’m a great listener who is interested and listens.
    Any other suggestions how to find people who will not only want to be listened to but would also listen?

  4. Dear Kara: I totally understand what you are saying. I have the feeling you are one of those “go to” people for many others in your life because you ARE a good listener. I have had many very similar experiences in which I have found myself in a one-sided conversation where I have served as the listener the entire time. What I have discovered is that most people have to be reminded of how to be a good listener and of the importance to honor the courtesy of a two-sided conversation. When I realized this, I started openly communicating with some of my friends, expressing my own need for them to listen to me. I was surprised at how receptive they were to my making this request. It turns out that they were holding an illusion that I was a very strong person who did not need for them to hold space for me. When I was willing to admit to my own vulnerabilities, most of my friends were happy to hold a loving space. Before you “quietly leave” some of your friendships, I suggest you first express your true feelings to them. You might discover that many of your friends are “clueless” as to how they have been overlooking your need to heard. This is also an excellent way to sort out who your true friends really are!
    Love and Light, Sandra

  5. Sandra,
    Thanks for the very nice and thoughtful reply. Yes, your right. I am a lot more willing to listen to others than most people are because I know how it feels not to be listened to. If I am pressed for time, I’ve started nicely saying, I would like to hear more of your story but have to be somewhere. One thing I’ve been learning through counseling this last year is to be more assertive expressing my needs or wishes. I’m sure many, many other people don’t speak up not wanting to risk a friend mad at them or risk loosing a relationship. I try to be nice and kind speaking up for my needs and have surprised myself being more willing to take those risks now. It’s worked out for me well speaking up in other areas of my life especially in business dealings if I act pleasantly and talk like an adult but not so well if I act anxious, stressed, and more child-like. I don’t have any close friends right now through partly my own fault, partly circumstances but am starting to build some. Being more selective too than I used to. I will keep your thoughts is mind over the long run. Thanks again for your thoughtful ideas. Kara

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