Ode to Love: Listen
Great author Stephen Richards Covey once said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” When he referred to most people, somewhere in there he was speaking directly about me, and I couldn’t agree with him more. I started graduate school in Marriage and Family Therapy a few weeks ago and although I am experiencing so much excitement finally knowing that I am working towards exactly what I want in life, these past few weeks have been extremely challenging for me. As a future therapist, I am trained to figure out my own internal issues; we are told that we must help ourselves first in order to help our future clients. I’ve spent hours going through “therapy” with my peers as an exercise for class, and I must admit it has been such a difficult task facing my own personal traumas before I begin to help others.
To the outside world I may seem calm and collected most of the time as if I’ve figured it all out, I write a relationship column for God sakes, but I’ve never felt more confused. I strive to help others to believe in love and relationships, but often I question my own abilities. What do I know anyways? I often ask myself, who am I to tell anybody what love should and could feel like? I found myself consumed with what my last few weeks introduced me to up until just a few days ago. In class, we were covering the concept of listening to a person’s sole to hear what they are trying to communicate to us. Most of us are already therapists in one form or another when it comes to our friends and family; therefore, we are used to helping others by telling them what they should do based on our own experiences. “Don’t do that” or “you should do this” has become a natural response; however, do we ever really listen to those who are seeking for our guidance?
As I began to pounder on that realization, I began to listen. I realized that most of us just want to be heard anyways; subconsciously we have already figured out our own flaws and tribulations, but we just want to be heard, nothing else. In the process of actually listening to my loved ones I’ve learned so much about them, things that I’ve never even seen before, yet I have known these people most of my life. How could I have been so blind, so ignorant for so long not knowing what others really seek from me. True, often my friends would ask me for my opinion, but most of the time they were just seeking to be heard.
Just a few days ago, I learned that my best friend is just a little girl living with the same fears and worries as I am. I listened to her speak about her past and for the first time in sixteen years of our friendship, I didn’t want to be her psychic nor a spiritual healer, I just wanted to hear her speak. I was able to put aside all of my biases and thoughts and really feel where she was coming from. It was then that I realized what successful therapy should really look like.
People often seek relationship advice in order to figure out what they or others are doing wrong, as well as how the relationship could be improved. This can be done by simply lending them the safe space and time to express their thought process. Believe me, you’ll be surprised as to how often those who seek help from you have already found the answers for themselves, but feel trapped and therefore judge their own decision making. I must be clear, this is not always the case, many do need cognitive therapy in order to change up their negative thinking patterns and choice making, but many have already found the answers, they just need somebody to hear them speak.
Listening is so much harder than most of us realize, it is a learned skill; therefore, we must believe that regardless of the content most of us must help ourselves first and understand that each individual is different. So how do we learn to do that, how do we really listen to somebody? Should we cover up our mouths with tape while anxiously waiting for the other person to realize what we as the one on the outside have known all along? Or do we count sheep when the other person keeps repeating the same things over and over again not being able to recognize the problem in the first place? No matter how one decides to relate to the other person in order to help them seek the truth, remembering that true empathy means hearing and not speaking might just be a great start.
It was after that realization that I understood what was happening to me on the inside. It wasn’t just about school or even me trying to become a successful therapist one day, it was about me finally understanding that most of my struggles derived from not listening to others and there is so much stress could have been avoided from my own life if I was just skilled enough to really listen to others. How many times have people told me exactly what they felt, yet I refused to listen to them. I couldn’t help but feel that perhaps I was really on to something, and that maybe I was finally getting a step closer to my own wisdom?
I truly believe that human beings are the most fascinating creatures on earth. No other living species on this planet can compare to the human brain. We are constantly evolving and learning from our mistakes, and with enough suffering, we might actually be capable of change and transformation. We never stay the same; we grow up by the hours. In a span of just a few weeks, I changed the way I related to other human beings. I no longer seek to tell anybody what I think about their struggles, but I carefully listen because what they are saying to me must be heard with both my ears and my heart. So the next time somebody tries to tell you that they need a friend to talk to, move a little closer, and prepare yourself to listen. Let your silence guide them for it tends to speak louder than any words.