My excellent friend, Becky, is called to listen. More than once, she has helped me negotiate some complicated Cherokee “stuff.” Each time, she listened without a single interruption. An enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation, Becky is good at listening for the key points of your struggle. We need more listeners like her.
Listening involves a presence; we are either present for the other person or we are not. Becky generates a real presence, and the lucky talker knows that he or she is being heard. How can more of us be like Becky? The art of listening involves the emptying of the self, enough that the other person is validated. Becky validates because she responds from a place of love and empathy.
I have another dear friend who has invested significant emotional time and energy over the years in someone that, as long as I’ve known him, can’t seem to stop talking about himself. He is his favorite all-time subject. He cheats the oxygen in the room. Unfortunately for all concerned, nobody has ever bothered to tell him that he talks too damn much. He refuses to shut up, especially if he might be called on to demonstrate the slightest intimacy skill. His self-adulation prevents any meaningful dialogue for my friend, and it has been hard to watch. Due to this man’s behavior, my friend can never fully share, and almost always comes away feeling shut down.
It is often said that listening is a skill. I think that it is just as much a choice. It is a choice that we make, to be available for the other person in a way that so many today are unavailable.
Be like Becky. Please, oh please, don’t be like my other friend’s emotional investment. Replenish the precious oxygen in the room by answering the call to listen.