For many important reasons, the reminder to “listen” to what others are saying has been emphasized in recent weeks. Whether we are being asked to listen to the concerns that someone is sharing regarding how they are treated in society, or whether we need to listen as others show their true anxiety and unease while returning to social life or work life in the ongoing global pandemic…..we need to take the time to “hear” people. For some of us, we hear but we do not “hear” with our whole selves, to the extent that we show understanding. The word that comes to mind is EMPATHY. Can we listen to the point of understanding someone’s point of view? Can we put ourselves in their shoes (or at least try)? Does it mean that we have to agree? The short answer to the last question is NO.
One of my favorite phrases that I repeat quite frequently in therapy sessions is by Stephen R. Covey, author of
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,
which says…..”Seek first to understand before being understood.” Stephen goes on to say, “most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
by Karen Gustafson, MS, NCC, LIMHP, Executive Director of JFS