In Hawaii, people enjoy talking story! It’s a favorite pastime.
When someone really listens and really cares stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine turn off and the healing hormones of oxytocin, dopamine, nitric oxide and endorphins turn on!
The nervous system relaxes, which can even heal the mind of feelings of depression, anxiety, fear, anger, and disconnection.
Brene Brown, the ‘Vulnerability Expert”, says that the “original definition of courage, when it first came into being in the English language, meant to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart”.
How often does one have this opportunity? How often does one soul give another soul the time, space, and attention to facilitate this happening?
Are you ready to make a conscious choice to make “talking story” part of your own and another’s well-being?
Recently I had the opportunity to practice active listening for several weeks with a friend who was very angry, with lots of primary feelings of hurt and unfairness underneath the anger. After three weeks of seeing her emotions escalating, I started to feel frustrated that this soul was not processing and accepting her own feelings in a way that would allow her to move on.
I did not understand why she relentlessly blamed someone else for all of her miseries.
In my mind, I started judging this soul for being so negative! After a few days of thinking this way, I was faced with a wall of judgement that had grown between us which did not allow me to listen to her anymore, without thinking that her reasonings, feelings, and thoughts were illogical, unwarranted, exagerrated, and just plain wrong!!! (devaluing another, going into duality)
I started to tell her how to solve the problem for I no longer wanted to listen to the same accusations aimed at the other person. I felt she was unjustified for having such a negative perspective of this person and of life, in general.
I felt a welling up in myself of wanting to make this person WRONG…and thinking that I could turn her around by giving her solutions.
I even started to blame her for blaming others, and for not looking within to change (moralizing).
What could I have done instead?
Back to basics…”How to Actively Listen”
- Reflect back some of what the person just said
- Reflect back some of the emotions the other person is communicating without sounding like a parrot
- Listen genuinely with acceptance (even when I don’t agree/ with their perceptions)
The process of being listened to allows people to feel valued, to accept their own hurt, and to look at the overall situation with more understanding. If there is a trusting relationship between the 2, often one active listening comment such as “You seem really upset” is enough to move the person from anger to receptivity.
Other active listening responses I could have said are: You don’t like it when she hits you. Or you feel really sad when she lashes out at you. Or it sounds like your feelings got hurt, just as much as your arm.
IS THERE A TIME TO PROBLEM SOLVE/GIVE ADVICE?
Basic rule: If someone is upset, listen first.
After someone has been listened to and feels valued and more in touch with their primary emotions, i.e. away from the anger, which is the secondary emotion, they are clearer and more open.
Then, a little advice may be accepted.
Or a reflective question could be posed such as What other way could you have handled it?
As our friends and family are encouraged to generate their own alternatives, their self understanding grows, their triggering process is better understood, and their ability to think on the spot and make a more positive choice will grow.