I recently listened to an episode from the podcast called On Being. It was about listening as an act of love. In it, David Isay, the founder of StoryCorps, discussed how fully listening to someone is one of the purest forms of generosity and kindness.
He talked about a time early in his career when he was creating a documentary, interviewing people and taking notes on their ideas, thoughts, and opinions. He noted that following the interview most people found the experience of being listening to so gratifying they did not care whether or not they made it to the documentary. These people never had anyone ask them how they felt on certain issues, what they believed in or how they wanted to be remembered when they were gone.
If you think about it we spend hundreds of dollars to talk to therapists who are paid to simply listen.
I spent time a lot of time thinking about this and realized how often people don’t listen to understand, but simply listen to reply. I’m also guilty of this. We often are simply waiting for our turn to talk. We rarely fully listen to a person by picking up on the subtleties, the body language, and being comfortable enough sitting in silence allowing the space for more words to flow. I can’t describe how much of a relief it feels to have someone non-judgementally listen to me when I am hurting without firing off solutions or that time they shared a similar experience. Sometimes we just want to vent. If you think about it we spend thousands of dollars to talk to therapists who are paid to simply listen. They are not paid to offer solutions to your problems, in fact, they discouraged to do this. They are meant to guide you to find the solutions within yourself, to ask the questions that get you to that place. To allow your words to pour out of every part of you.
The best thing is we can be those gentle souls for others. We can be the cushion when their worlds are collapsing. All we have to do is listen.