Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Importance of Being Heard

In my classes, I have been reading about several different approaches to counseling. And while each method differs in some ways, they each have had some very important things in common. The more I think about this, the more I believe that these common components are helpful not just in counseling, but in everyday life. One commonality I’ve noticed is the importance of actively listening and empathizing when a person is sharing their thoughts and feelings.

You’ve probably had this experience: Something has happened in your life, and you have feelings about it. Maybe you feel angry, sad, worried, scared, depressed, rejected, or lonely. You talk to the significant people in your life about it, but you walk away from the conversation feeling frustrated, unheard, and still feeling the same as you did before. And you can’t figure out why. You know the person you talked to cares about you, but they seem to be trying to jump straight into determining the cause of the problem or offering solutions to the problem. And yes, you want to find solutions, but you also desperately want someone to be with you through your pain, to walk with you and understand why you are hurting.

Here’s the thing: a person is unlikely to make any forward progress or feel better emotionally until they know they have been heard and understood. As friends or family, if we don’t take the time to listen to their pain, and to communicate that we truly do understand what they’re feeling and why they’re feeling it… then we probably will not be able to help them in a significant way.

But that’s not easy! Meeting someone where they are, in their pain, and walking alongside them as they move through it is hard. But it is loving, and it will speak to their heart in a way that platitudes, advice, and quickly-devised solutions will not. So I encourage us all to make the effort to really hear and understand the people in our lives. It’s such an integral step toward health.

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