When you were little, how many times were we told, or have since told our own children, “You need to be seen and not heard”? What does that mean? Is what we are saying more about them or about ourselves? Is our child just making a noise, verbally expressing itself or developing their newfound talking skills? Or is it that we feel embarrassed and are worried about what people may be thinking of us as parents, is not controlling our children, and keeping them from making a noise?
I feel it is part of a behaviour that we have learned from our parents, which is that to fit in we have to keep quiet, not ask questions, not disturb other people, and to always play small.
As we get older, this can manifest in our fear of asking the first question, asking for help, saying we do not understand and not standing up for what we believe. Through listening to one another we can begin to break this fear-based pattern of behaviour.
It is only when we begin to question what we say that we realise this is not helpful to our children or to any of us. As much as we all wish to love and to be loved, we also all wish to be heard and seen.
I recently watched the compelling series about Brain Doctors, set in the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. The star, although he would not agree, is the Paediatric neurosurgeon Jay Jayamohan. Jay goes about his work with the skill and competence you would expect from someone with his experience and obvious expertise. What struck me most of all though was his ability to easily and naturally connect with his patients and their families. He does this by truly listening and being empathic with them, but above all seeing them as fellow human beings on their journey.
The Dalai Lama, said during his recent tour, and on the upcoming film Road to Peace, “That this century should be the century of dialogue”. I feel the more we listen, understand, empathise and connect, that we build trust. Be that with a loved one, within our business and with our customers and suppliers, and with those that we come into contact every day.
We are great at talking, in fact, some have made a career out of it, but how many of us are great or even good at listening. I don’t mean hearing the words someone says, but true deep listening. Listening without judgement and putting aside our own prejudices, but by being present and really seeing that person.
Recall those times when you felt truly heard, truly seen, and how you felt safe enough in their presence to allow what needed to be said to do so. Remember how reassuring and supportive it felt……
Next time you have the opportunity to listen to someone, turn off any distractions, i.e. mobile, television, etc., turn to face them, look into their eyes, suspend your need to provide an answer or a reply and just let them speak. Listen to what they are saying and begin to feel it. Your reply or response could well come from your heart this time and not your head, and may not be what you would normally have said, but they will go away feeling seen and heard.