By Dr. Denise Morett
I’m a doctor of psychology, author and professor with a 30 year career. I’ve always been struck by how difficult it can be to truly listen and give attention to ourselves and others. I was recently asked how to deal with the pandemic and added challenges in relationships and communication, specifically for people working on the frontlines. Unusual and unimaginable challenges have created circumstances ripe for relearning and new learning.
We find astounding levels of benefit to our physical and emotional health from just paying attention. It’s simple yet seems so hard to do. Especially when stressed.
True attention to ourselves and others is one of the most loving actions we can do now and always. Listening offers the most powerful message of being seen, valued, understood and loved. We can truly hold someone and ourselves. Even in physical distance, we can feel energetically held. Our cells respond in similar ways to being physically held as they respond to being energetically held. Being present for one another and ourselves is often the only thing we can do that makes a difference. This is especially true at times of stress, trauma, tragedy, loss, and death.
Here’s a tool to help remind us of what works:
🌟L- LOVE is all that matters. True attention is the most loving and healing thing we can offer someone. We can also offer this to ourselves.
“I hold space for you because I love you. I see you. I understand. I value your experience. I’m present for your experience. The simple day to day experiences as well as the adversity faced during highly stressful experiences. I’m especially present for the huge moments of devastating experiences, trauma and tragedy.”
Be present especially when you or your loved one is in an acute crisis. Acute grief. And always. If you can’t listen and be present, say that you’ll be able to perhaps later, but that in this moment you’re having a hard time. See if someone else can step in.
🌟I- INTERNAL check up for the the speaker. They are in their own reflection and expression. What is happening for that person in that moment. Not you.
No solving, dismissing or explaining anything. Just hear it all. Receive it. Warmly. No judging.
🌟S- SILENCE. Refrain from speaking. Nod in acknowledging. Eye contact. “Uh huhs”. “I hear you” “I’m sorry” or other neutral brief comments that let the person know you’re totally present. Do not check your phone, look away or get distracted with something else. And if you briefly do get distracted, say that “hang on one moment I have to read this text” “sorry, my attention was off you for a moment”.
🌟T- TENDER ATTENTION. “I’m sorry it’s hard” “I’m here for you” “It’s challenging. I hear your struggle. I’m listening” “I care” “I love you”.
🌟E- EMPATHY. I hear you. Get it exactly right. Don’t interpret or try to solve the issues. Empathy is like holding up a mirror. I see this and hear that. Empathy is as if you were in the other person’s shoes. Reflect only.
“I see you’re upset”
“I hear you’re in pain”
🌟N- NON REACTIVITY and NON ATTACHMENT. Have zero attachment to what you’re hearing. Neutrality. If something upsets the listener, that’s ok, but keep it to yourself for the moment. Your loved one is in pain. Give them a wide berth. Maybe they’re short with you or even acting worse. It’s their pain. You can discuss your reaction another time. Not now.
This is also not your moment to offer solutions or talk about yourself or your reactions.
You want to simply communicate that you completely hear the other person. And not by relating your own story. Not yet. Wait. There will be a time for sharing.
Then when the person is ready, and you get permission, you can perhaps share some helpful ideas or your experiences. But not until the other person is ready.
“I hear how hard this is right now. I’m here and listening. Would you like any other suggestions right now? Would it help if I share my experiences too?”
🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟Listening is loving. Offer that to others. Offer it to yourself. Seek others who can follow these guidelines. Truly a gift to be able to speak to ears that can hear. May we all be at peace and be well. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟