If you’re anything like me, the passing of time has been elusive this year. Yes, I know the calendar says October and yes, I realize school is in session and Daylight Savings is almost over. Yet the fog of COVID living has caused many of us to lose our bearings. It’s hard to believe we are heading toward the end of 2020. Events and activities we’re used to participating in have been cancelled or postponed; we’re restricted in gathering; and we’re missing loved ones that by this point in the year, we would have travelled to see. In other words, aspects of life have been on hold for months. We want to believe that eventually we will pick up the pieces of our former lives and get them (and the time!) all back. Yet the calendar has marched on. Some things no doubt can and will be rescheduled…but others, we simply have to let go of. Their time has come, and gone.
I hear a variety of responses as I ask people what helps them cope with the pandemic, yet a common yearning is to be listened to. Whether it’s a homebound individual, a grandparent unable to see grandchildren, or a parent feeling frenzied by the chaos in the household, people want someone to hear and have empathy for what they are going through. We long for someone who will acknowledge and affirm that yes, this COVID living is hard. Someone who will listen to our laments. Someone who will reassure us we are not alone in our challenges.
Deep listening involves undivided attention. It means listening fully and completely. All too often as we are listening to someone, we determine quickly as to how we want to respond. We think we already know what the person wants and needs, so our mind gets busy formulating our answer. It may seem efficient to move onto thinking about our reply while the speaker is still speaking…but the fact is, our listening is diminished. We can miss information that might be key to understanding how best to help. What’s more, often people are not looking for answers and advice in the first place; they experience comfort simply from being heard.
All of us have the capacity to be effective listeners, but it doesn’t happen by chance. We need to set aside those to-do lists racing through our brains and focus solely on the speaker. Listen to every word with a caring spirit rather than jump to conclusions. And get comfortable with silence: it gives the listener time to reflect, and the speaker an opportunity to share additional thoughts.
We are living in uncertain times. Routines and plans have been disrupted and the roadmap for what lies ahead is unclear. We can help each other by being a listening presence. Like the classic song states, we all need someone to lean on.
Kathryn Carroll offers one-on-one coaching, listening and support for individuals facing transitions and dilemmas. Learn more by visiting www.conversationswithkatie.org or emailing her at email@example.com.