You’re not really listening to me!


  • ‘In spite of all similarities, every living situation has, like a newborn child, a new face, that has never been before and will never come again. It demands of you a reaction that cannot be prepared beforehand. It demands nothing of what is past. It demands presence, responsibility; it demands you’

    Martin Buber

Imagine if, every moment of our lives, everything was new. Imagine if we could, each moment, start again with no preconceptions, no baggage, no ‘mind’. And respond to each moment afresh. And be with the people we meet as if we were seeing them for the first time. I am talking here about the kind of connection with the world that involves using all of ourselves, not just the intellect or the emotions we automatically call upon in every day situations. It is about accessing a deeper, softer, and yet surprisingly more solid place than the one we usually relate from. I would even say it is a sacred space: a space of reverence to ourselves and to others, and to the beauty of what is emerging between us, there and then. We could live like this every day, and feel more energised with our encounters.


I am writing about this because I see, every day, how difficult it is for most of us to really feel heard or seen. Being around others often increases our sense of loneliness, our lack of grounding, our unease, or it plainly doesn’t leave us enriched. We often wait impatiently for others to finish their sentences so we can say our part. We often know beforehand what we want to say, the advice we want to give, how we would solve a situation… We all need a platform for expression, and we often just take it, use it, and walk on. We take each other lightly, and we feel entitled to ‘fix’ each other constantly.  We think we have seen it all before. And so it happens that we are not really there for others, or for ourselves, at that precise moment. We keep missing out, again and again, on an irreplaceable opportunity to ground ourselves in our own power and to empower others.


You might wonder why I speak about power now: My favourite question in the world is “How can we be more ourselves, all the time”?  To be myself is to connect to my strength in a conscious way. To feel entitled to enough space and time that I can identify my longings and my own capabilities for fulfilling them. To feel free, in the knowledge that I am safely centred around my soul and that this is the place from which I interact with the world. Communication holds a key to this: How can we not lose ourselves in the presence of others, treasure their individuality and the path they are on, remain connected to our own centre, whilst keeping our minds and hearts open to what surrounds us?


We can all start by changing the way we listen.


Here are some steps we can follow to really listen. Try this next time you are with a friend or a relative, and see what you discover:


  1. Take in the space you are in: the sights, the textures, the light, the sounds, the air around you.
  2. Feel your own presence in that space: the contact of your body on the chair or your feet on the floor. Sense your body as you are listening: notice any tension in your jaw, a certain sense of expectation in your stomach, maybe joy or sadness in your heart… Notice any thoughts or emotions. No analysing, just notice. You have touched base with yourself.
  3. Now you can turn your full attention to the speaker. Listen to everything that is coming your way: the words, the body language, the emotions…. Be there, with all your senses, resisting the urge to talk back, to comment, to ask, to console… Listen for the real experience, what is really being said, for their longing.
  4. Relax and enjoy the subtle quality of what is created between you.


This is ultimately what we are all looking for: to understand our own needs, as we speak; to find a bridge from ourselves to the world. If we listen in this way we are helping others – and ourselves – to find that bridge, over and over. And we are creating dignity wherever we go.


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