Active Listening and Acceptance

What is the easiest and safest way that most people communicate?  The answer is surprising because we all feel so good when we do it and we think that it is so giving.  Another hint is that often teens dont absorb it and the more they dont listen the more we continue to do it.  The answer isdrum roll please. ADVICE GIVING.   Take a moment and think about when all you wanted to do is to be heard and the person gives you advice, even if it is very subtle.  It feels very unsatisfying and leaves you thinking that you should feel better but dont.  The irony is that most people engage in communication to deepen relationships through a process of waiting to speak and advice giving.  The best example of this is the wife who attempts to tell her husband about her difficult day and he proceeds to respond with attempts to Fix her problem and give her his profound advice.  The wife inevitably says that she just needs him to listen and to really be heard.

The tragedy with advice giving is that while the person is speaking, the other person is generally formulating the advice they are going to bestow once the person stops speaking.  The interaction is not about truly listening, rather it becomes a battle to speak in order to be heard. To truly listen to someone is extremely challenging and requires selfless attention to absorb the meaning of their words and to share what they are expressing.  This process is called Active Listening and produces an incredible sense of connection and acceptance in that person who is sharing. To become a proficient listener is not easy and requires diligence to be fully present in the moment and not be distracted by thoughts of correction, advice, or platitudes/clichés of change.  The active listener is able to remain fully present and able to perceive the entire means of communication (verbal and nonverbal).

When others a genuinely heard, they experience acceptance at a deep and profound level.  This experience of acceptance facilitates the speaker in feeling valuable and worth being cared about.  The fact that the listener genuinely listened and did not challenge them with advice communicates that the speakers words and emotions are validated and thus they are accepted.  This ability to actively listen and authentically make others feel accepted is challenging, but one of the most effective means of experiencing intimacy and joy in relationships. 

Take the challenge and actively listen to someone and experience how it makes them and you feel.