Thursday, August 28, 2014

Carrying on listening

I've had some unexpected opportunities to sit and listen to other people's ongoing stories in the last couple of days, so it's been helpful to be reminded by Lynne Baab's latest book, The Power of Listening, that good listening can be affected by our own anxieties, or our desires to 'solve' problems, or our need to keep moving forward because we're busy - and much more.

One of the advantages of being retired is that time isn't quite so pressured. Whereas lunch times always used to be affected by the need to get back to work, that's no longer the case for me. And evenings aren't such an issue either, because I can work in the daytime and get want I want done then (such as walking the dog, or writing the sequel to my children's book, which is well on its way).

But being under time pressure isn't the only thing that gets in the way of good listening: our anxiety that we can't solve the problem(s) is another issue. And trying to solve the problem may be the last thing we need to be doing. The person may first and foremost just need to be heard. One of the things we learned when doing a course in pastoral supervision is that that someone with a problem may need most of all to talk out their issues. It's the fact of talking, and being heard, that's important, rather than your attempts at problem-solving. And frequently, in the talking out, the problems clarify for the person and some options to dealing with them arise.
Uriah Heep.
Artist: Fred Bernard

Lynne points out in one of her last chapters in the book that we require humility when listening to others. This can be difficult for people who live in an age when self-esteem, and self in general, are the 'important' things. Humility isn't something we moderns are very good at. That sense of putting ourselves aside in order to give someone else room - and doing it without making it a false action (like Uriah Heep at his worst) - isn't always easy for us.

I still haven't read the first half of Lynne's book, but the second half has been more than helpful!


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