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Posts tagged listening
l i s t e n UP
Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.
— Winston Churchill

Listening is a superpower.

How many conversations have you had where the other person dominates the conversation and you leave thinking, “I know allll about their latest vacation/hobby/issue, but they know nothing about my life as of late?

Not so fulfilling.

On the flip side, have you ever had someone invest their total time and attention in you, and you walk away feeling heard and respected?

Mega fulfilling.

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Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.
— David Augsburger

To listen well, try pausing before disagreeing, or giving advice, or referencing your own experience. Sure, doing these other actions can be useful, but listening is paramount. Assess the need for the other actions. Listening is the priority, and the others should merely complement and support.

Active listening is encouraged! Some ways to actively listen:

  • Nod

  • Make eye contact

  • Lean forward

  • Supply (genuine!) verbal affirmations like “Sure”/“Thank you”/“I understand”

  • Paraphrase

The first duty of love is to listen.
— Paul Tillich
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Something I struggle with is interrupting - I’m constantly aware of and working on this with myself. My interrupting does come from a good place, however. I interrupt not because I deem what I have to say superior, but because I get so stoked on what the other is saying and it’s my way of “actively listening.” Showing I’m engaged and invested. This can easily be misperceived, though (and can be downright O B N O X I O U S and distracting) so I strive to minimize (and ultimately eliminate) my insertions. I always notice and appreciate when someone pays me the respect of attentively listening sans interruptions - my friends are brilliant at it.

If you want to be listened to, you should put in time listening.

And if you find yourself rattling on because you feel socially awkward and unsure of what to speak about - and talking about yourself is your default because you are your most familiar topic - there’s a win/win solution for that! A simple hack is to provide a bit of information about yourself (eg “I’m so pumped for skiing this year”) and then turning it to the other person(s) (eg “Do you ski or board?”). Prefacing with a fact about yourself makes it easy and effective for multiple reasons:

  • Contributes a familiar topic to work with and solves the problem of where to start

  • Makes you relatable and breaks the ice for the other person to share

  • Allows an opportunity to segue into related topics

  • Lets you off the hook from carrying the conversation, as many people like talking about themselves (for whatever reason - like you, they are most well-versed themselves/they have something to say/etc)

  • It establishes a natural flow

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Be a good listener. Your ears will never get you in trouble.
— Frank Tyger

What about those situations where people confide a heartbreak or challenge or stressor they’re facing? Don’t knock yourself out trying to come up with the perfect response/solution. Unless they expressly ask you, “What should I do?” more often than not, people simply crave a listening ear. Receiving their words with empathy and love is far more powerful than the wisest and timeliest response. Simply holding that space for them and allowing them to vent and feel their emotions can make all the difference and be more beneficial than “solving” their problem.

The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention... A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words.
— Rachel Naomi Remen

If silence unnerves you, try to learn to be comfortable with it. Don’t rush to finish the other’s faltering sentence, or fill the gaps. This isn’t about you/your comfort - it’s about them. Allowing them the space to express themselves. Or just sit in supportive silence; simply your presence may suffice.

I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.
— Larry King
When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.
— Dalai Lama

I firmly believe we all have something to learn from one another (even if it’s how to have patience!). Running your mouth about what you know is definitely not the way to go about obtaining that knowledge from others. Even (or especially!) when you think you’re an expert on a topic - you’ll likely be surprised what you gain if you’re humble enough to sit back and listen/observe another’s perception regarding it. Maybe you’ll glean a different angle you hadn’t considered. This is where an open mind is K E Y. Try listening to learn, rather than listening to confirm [your current opinion]. At the very least, hearing the other side out will only strengthen your own position.

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Removing your ego from the equation is crucial. Resist the temptation to flex and download all you know. There is ALWAYS more to learn. The minute you deem yourself a know-it-all is the precise minute you need to assess yourself, because that’s a sure sign your ego has hijacked you and stunted your growth. So tell your ego to buzz off and listen even harder.

The sign of intelligence is that you are constantly wondering. Idiots are always dead sure about every damn thing they are doing in their life.
— Jaggi Vasudev
Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.
— Jimi Hendrix

And in those heated moments where you’re battling with another and spinning your wheels in conflicted frustration, the best way to defuse the situation is to take a deep breath, step back, and…L I S T E N. Truly listen. Not only will this likely disarm your “contender,” but this simple action shows you value and respect them enough to consider their view. That right there has far-reaching effects. It shifts your approach from a place of one-sided triumph and win-lose to a place of resolution and win-win. It’s a clear reflection of your respect for them and conveys your willingness to remedy the situation and meet them halfway. It can make ALL the difference.

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Listening is a very deep practice... You have to empty yourself. You have to leave space in order to listen...especially to people we think are our enemies - the ones we believe are making our situation worse.

When you have shown your capacity for listening and understanding, the other person will begin to listen to you, and you have a chance to tell him or her of your pain, and it’s your turn to be heard. This is the practice of peace.
— Thich Nhat Hanh

This is especially important when you’re feeling triggered. How many times have you been blinded by emotions/anger, then realize you misheard/misperceived the other? I know I have. Much can be lost in communication - for a number of reasons. Consider you might’ve misunderstood/assumed/pre-concluded. Hear the other out (this is where gentle paraphrasing is especially helpful!) to ensure you’re catching what they’re throwing.

And sometimes the other person won’t pay you the same respect of listening to you. It is what it is. It’s annoying as hell, sure, but you can only control yourself. Rest assured you did what you could to resolve the matter. When that happens, my tried-and-true remedy involves time and distance (and my Scream Spotify playlist I created to express the fire I feel; Body Combat also helps! ;) ).

Happy listening.

xx,

-w-



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C O N N E C T I N G
Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Connect deeply with others. Our humanity is the one thing that we all have in common.
— Melinda Gates

Ya girl Melinda bringing the wisdom and the opener for today's post on connecting with others. 

Before we start, do me a favor, please, and reflect on people with whom you just VIBE. You seem to connect on the deepest of levels, and you just get each other. It's as if you're twin souls, as if you're cut from the same cloth.

Now please (so polite, I know) think of people with whom you definitely do NOT vibe. No matter how hard you try (or don't try - because sometimes it's exhausting), you just.cannot.get.on.the.same.page. You may not feel ill will toward them, but you'd be just peachy if you never cross paths again.

You likely know people whom fall on both ends of the above-outlined spectrum - as well as people sprinkled in between. C'est la vie (translation for the non Francophiles: such is life). The reality is, some of these people from whom you feel disconnected may be people you can't necessarily shun from your life completely. They could be coworkers/in-laws/spouse's friends/bosses/etc. They ain't going anywhere.

Do you ever wonder what you can do to bridge the gap between you and your non-soulmates? If so, B O O M. Today we're going to explore ways to enrich and solidify your connections with others - or at the very least, just hopefully make it less friggin' awkward and painful.

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I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel
SEEN, HEARD, AND VALUED:
when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive
SUSTENANCE AND STRENGTH
from the relationship.
— Brene Brown

Think back to your fellow vibers. Think about how you feel during and following interactions with them. You likely feel acknowledged, right? You feel like they "see" you, they hear you, they value you. You don't feel judged or criticized. If they do dish out tough love (which in my opinion is when you KNOW you have a solid friend - more in a later post), you know it stems from a place of pure love. They care about you enough to call you out when necessary. You feel strengthened, boosted, and re-charged after speaking with them, not drained, depleted, and depressed. 

Let's dissect this for methods you can use to be this person for others:

  • Make the other person feel heard
Don’t listen to reply. Listen to understand.

LISTEN. Truly listen. Identify the non-verbals, focusing on what they're not saying (their body language, their insinuations, their possible motivations, etc). Clear your hands and your attention and give it all to them, baby. Think about how delicious it feels when someone gifts you with their full attention. Something so simple can truly have a powerful effect. It has the power to soften defenses, lower walls, enhance communication, etc. I mean, at the very least, the sooner the other person feels heard, the sooner the encounter will likely end. But...you may surprise yourself. By truly taking the time to focus on the other person and absorb their message, the more invested and engaged in the relationship you'll feel. One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.

  • Be truly curious and show a genuine interest.

Ask questions. Show a genuine interest. Everyone knows something you don't. Doesn't it feel amazing when you can tell someone is taking a true interest in your life/message? Confidence booster for sure! 

Without fail, the most charismatic people I know are those showing a genuine interest in others. They ask deep(er) questions, listen, then ask follow-up questions. They pay genuine compliments, beyond the "You look cute" or "You're a babe." Don't get me wrong - any genuine compliment is a good compliment - but the truly effective connectors are those who take it one step further and one level deeper. You feel like they're actually addressing you, not just any other friend of theirs.

  • Meet them halfway
If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.
— Nelson Mandela

Drop the pretenses. The condescension. The need to show how fabulously fabulous you are. Keep it R E A L, amigos. Chances are, if you listen, you can get a feel for where the other person is coming from and meet them there. Especially if you recognize they're making an effort, don't make them go it alone. Reach out a hand. 

Initially, you may have to go more than halfway, maybe even the whole way solo. Decide if you'd rather have smug justification or happy co-existence. Self righteousness is a lonely road.

And maybe you find that person I N S U F F E R A B L E. Irritating as hell. You find them ignorant, or abrasive, or self-absorbed, or whatever.  Read on, my friend.

  • Do your best to remain non-judgmental and open minded.

This is particularly hard when you feel they're judging you, and especially hard when you KNOW they're judging you (as evidenced by their expressed verbal judgments - in other words, they just freaking told you so). Just know that judgment stems from fear/insecurity/anxiety. People who are secure and love themselves don't feel compelled to chase feelings of superiority (however fleeting) by judging. And if they sense you're judging them (whether you are or aren't), this will likely exacerbate the session. So let it be clearly known you love and accept them as they are. This will hopefully inspire and encourage them to extend the same respect to you.

In conjunction with being non-judgmental, try to remain open minded. The person may say/do things you consider abominable, or lame, or ignorant, or EW. Hear them out, reserve judgment, and unless they're plotting to do something atrocious like murder bunnies, live and let live! Accept and celebrate your differences. Give them - and yourself - space to be yourselves.

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  • Grant them grace.

Understand if they're being rude/self-centered/etc, it's because of insecurity/fear/anxiety. They - just like you - are doing the best they can. It's hard being human sometimes! *Genuinely* helping them feel heard and special and valued will go a long way toward bridging that gap, and will likely lessen their compulsion/need to prove themselves to you/others, and to seek external validation. 

Social anxiety is a very real thing, and for some it can be debilitating. That person you'd wish would stop monopolizing the conversation to brag about how incredible they are? They may suffer from crippling social anxiety, and simply don't know how to connect with another, so they fall back on what they know - themselves. They use it as a crutch, and would likely be horrified if they knew how they were being perceived. Trust me, it's not fun to be around, but hopefully by letting them feel heard and valued - and then gently steering the conversation to other topics - you can help them and set the precedent for better future interactions. 

Release your need for validation, and your urge to show off. Not that you can't share wins - after all, true conversation should be about reciprocity - but try focusing on the other person and less on yourself.

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  • Focus on your commonalities

Maybe you both love tacos. Maybe you both think Tom Hardy is the dreamiest man on the planet (because he is). Maybe you share political views or an aversion to screamo emo music. If it's your mother in law, you obviously both love her son/your husband. If it's your boss, you both want the company to succeed. Whatever is, try to find and cultivate that common ground. If you're totally drawing a blank, chances are you're both humans who just want to be happy - so focus on that until you discover something else.

  • Allow vulnerability.
We may impress people through our strengths, but we connect with people through our weaknesses.
— Craig Groeschel

 

 

How relieving is it when you realize the person you thought was superhuman is actually, in fact, a mere mortal? Who struggles to find time/energy to clean/work out/fold laundry? Who feels just as insecure as you about their momming skillz or math know how? Nurture vulnerability, in you and them. Give them permission to let down their guard and be vulnerable by taking the lead and being vulnerable yourself. 

Often they put on a front because they feel intimidated by Y O U. By being the first to drop the cape and superhero mask, you can take the first step toward truly connecting. People typically open up if they know you care. Give them a safe space to do so.

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
— John C. Maxwell
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  • Remain true to you.

Obviously do right by them, but also by you. Sometimes this entails drawing a line in the sand and speaking your truth. Gently but firmly standing up for yourself. Repelling toxicity and promoting good vibes. 

  • Practice self awareness.
People can only meet you as deeply as the’ve met themselves.

Just like you'd really like your bro's friend to get a friggin' clue how obnoxious it is to hear him tell inappropriate jokes loudly for all to hear - try to dig deep and reflect ways you could be contributing to the chasm. Is there any way your words/actions could be misperceived? This can be a slippery slope, so be careful not to go down the rabbit hole into full-fledged self consciousness. Just simply try to be aware. Maybe even ask a trusted loved one for insight.

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  • Level with them.

If you're still not where you want to be with the other person - try leveling with them and directly addressing the issue. Explain you feel distance, ask if the feeling is mutual, and express your desire to resolve this. Listen to what they have to say and do your best to remain open and willing to compromise. 

 

If you have your own tips, or examples of finally connecting with someone after deliberate effort, please share in the comments below!

One thing's for sure, I love you all.

xx,

-w-

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