She walked into the room, and asked for help. To determine what type of help she needed I had to ask good questions. I asked her three questions before she told me a story that astounded me, and shook me to my core. My encounter with her changed my life. I had never met anyone who had really lived through everything she was telling me.
I had been trained to provide crisis counseling at the time, and to assess the most prominent needs of our clients. I was ill prepared for what I heard. I signed her up for our programs, gave her as many referrals as I could, and barely made it to my car before I broke out in tears.
This was the first time I ever counseled another person. I was exposed to the pain and grief that people suffer with. I was exposed to the reality of a life filled with sorrow, grief, abuse, poverty, and hopelessness. It was a beautiful moment to connect with another human being.
Communication & Listening
What that woman needed that day was for me to listen. She needed someone who cared enough about her to actually listen to her story. She didn’t need a lot of answers. She didn’t need my wisdom, as if I have any, my experience, my skill, my mastery of words. She needed my ear.
How can we communicate if we don’t first listen? How will we know what to say, if we don’t first listen to what is said. If it’s not being said then we need to ask questions. I have never met another human being that I was able to figure out. Even after 27 years of marriage I am always amazed about how little I know my own husband.
There are barriers to listening. Here are a few. I catch myself doing them all the time.
1. Anxiety. Fear fuels anxiety. It’s a powerful emotion. If I am anxious I am less likely to take the time to do about anything with patience. I am less likely to listen to you.
2. Pride. You know. I know it all. Why would I listen to you?
3. Selfishness. It’s about me. I am talking to hear myself. I don’t really need or want the opinion of others. It gets in the way of me.
4. Lack of discipline. Perhaps we just haven’t disciplined ourselves to learn how to listen first, and speak second. Perhaps we need to break old patterns.
5. Lack of respect. Perhaps we aren’t giving others the simple respect of listening to what they have to say, and the reason could be due to any of the previous reasons.
I was changed every time I counseled another human being. I was made aware of suffering, and grief in the lives of others. I was made aware of how little I know, and how much in common we all have with each other. I was humbled, and honored that I was able to connect with others for the purpose of helping them solve problems, and live amazing lives.
Every person we meet is an opportunity to learn and grow. Every person has something to teach us, if we will listen. If we speak before we listen we aren’t communicating, we are only talking. If you want to connect with somone ask questions, listen, and then speak. When we do we will be on our way towards good communication.