This is the fourth in a series of six statements about the values and objectives of Someone To Tell It To’s listening, training, and educational programs. Living these values is how we are helping the world to listen.
A great friend of ours got a phone call from her daughter, a first-year college student, last week. Her daughter wanted to talk about how stressed and overwhelmed she was with finals looming as her first semester was ending. Her mother asked her what classes she was most worried about. Her daughter replied that there were none. In fact, she was doing extremely well in all her classes.
“Then”, asked our friend, “what is it that makes you so worried and anxious?”
“Oh, it’s just that everyone else is so worried and anxious. The whole campus vibe is full of stress, dread, and fear.”
This young woman is an intuitive empathetic listener. She feels what others feel. She takes on their worries and anxieties. She receives deeply their stress, dread, and fear.
She is doing the hard work of listening intentionally.
Listening intentionally means opening yourself up to feeling something.
And, feeling something isn’t always easy or neat and tidy. Feeling something can be messy, complicated, even (and most especially) painful.
Yet, most of us prefer things easy and neat and tidy. Most of us don’t like messiness, complications, or pain. Especially pain.
To listen with compassion, with empathy, with intentionality does mean we will sometimes feel pain. It can’t be avoided. And that makes listening well hard to lean into.
But it is leaning into the hard stuff – the broken relationships, broken trust, broken promises, broken dreams, broken hearts – that ultimately causes us all to begin to heal.
And that’s why we listen – to help one another heal. We help those to whom we listen by giving them the safety and the space to reveal it all. Whether it’s something ugly or irrational or irresponsible or reprehensible, or not, allowing someone to say what they need to say helps healing to begin. And it also works for us when we are listened to. When we can reveal those same kinds of things with people we trust, we begin to heal, too. Listening and being listened to in this way is the first step in redeeming our relationships, rebuilding trust, restoring promises, repairing hearts, and recasting dreams.
That’s what listening does. It helps to reveal where we need to go, what we need to do, and when we need a change.
We first have to feel – another’s confusion or conflicting emotions – just like we want others to feel ours. So that they – and we – can know that we are not alone in our pain.
We’ll repeat it over and over again. Listening to feel means feeling pain. It’s not easy. But it is the path to healing.
That’s why we at Someone To Tell It To listen in pairs. We never want someone to have to listen alone. Entering into deep emotions, and especially pain, is hard. So, we all have partners to share the listening with. It’s the smartest thing we have done since the very beginning. No one with Someone To Tell It To is expected to listen – to hear the hard, messy, painful stuff of human lives – all alone. Ever.
Listening intentionally engages our emotions. It connects strongly with our feelings. It touches us inside and connects with our compassion and our humanity, our need to connect more deeply with others.
While it is not always easy. It is effective. It is powerful. It is profound. It is life-changing and life-giving. It is healing.
And, to heal the brokenness and the pain is what it is all about.