Heard of Active Listening? This Is How We Can Hold A Safe Space For Our Special People To Speak

Have you heard the term Active Listening?

Do you feel your communication skills could improve?

Have you done a lot of talking but feel unheard?

Perhaps it is time to learn to listen better.

I felt similarly for a time, and so I began to learn about active listening. Here I share a few pieces of what I have learned so far, while I learn to apply these skills to my daily life.

I wrote an article about the talk space – which is my answer to actively listening to women who need to speak. You can read it here.

This blog post covers:

  1. what other respected folks have to say about listening,
  2. what is active listening, and
  3. how we can learn these simple skills to listen better and potentially improve our relationships with friends, family, and colleagues.
  4. pictures of my personal life because these are the people who really deserve our active listening skills.
my personal life in pictures - friends, family, outdoors

Wise Takes On Active Listening

Pope Francis on Listening

Recently a friend sent me this quote from Pope Francis about listening.

“Open ourselves to listening, because listening implies availability, it implies docility, it implies time dedicated to dialogue. Today, we are inundated with words and by the urgency to always have something to say or do. How often two people are talking and the one does not wait for the other to finish his or her thought, but cuts the other off mid-sentence, and responds…. But if we do not allow another to speak, there is no listening… We are afraid of silence. How hard it is to listen to each other! To listen till the end, to let the other express him or herself, to listen in our families, to listen at school, to listen at work…”

Pope Francis

In it, he expresses his belief in the importance and power of the nigh-forgotten art of listening. Without listening to others, it seems our lives could become less rich.

The Dalai Lama on Listening

Staying with holy leaders; the Dalai Lama offers these words about listening:

“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.”

He stresses that we stand to gain from listening to others. There again is this life richness in taking the time and having the patience to hear others out.

And if such spiritual leaders support the gentle skill of listening, it makes sense to me that they might know something worth our consideration.

A Meditation About Active Listening

I recently listened to a meditation – about listening. The teacher used the term “holding space for others.” She explained how it is natural for us to want to step in and help when someone shares their suffering with us and that this is simply because we care.

She went on to explain how there are times when someone shares with us their suffering, when the most loving and supportive thing we can do, is simply to hold space.

It can be enough simply to be with them, to listen, to sit together, to offer a hand to hold. If we can pause and just be present, listen without judgement and without offering any solutions, we can give them a chance to explore their emotions safely and tune into and trust their own intuitive wisdom.

We all experience challenges and the resulting emotions. By creating a safe and compassionate space for others, we can empower our suffering friend to travel her own healing journey at her own pace.

Given the space to move through our emotions, we might find our own way through our struggles more easily. Wouldn’t that be welcome?

I am a big believer in speaking and listening, and I believe most of us need a space in which to be heard. I am increasingly focused on presence.

my personal life in pictures - friends, family, outdoors

What is Active Listening?

The aim of active listening is to improve mutual understanding. Active listening involves our

  • listening with our focused full attention,
  • asking questions to aid our understanding and
  • responding non-judgementally to what we are told.

I wrote a blog post called How To Listen where I discuss active listening in more detail.

my personal life in pictures - friends, family, outdoors

What Are These Active Listening Skills?

The first step in really listening to someone when they are speaking is to be present and focused on them.

We need to pause our reactions and responses and simply listen, asking questions for clarity when necessary, or repeating what they have said for accuracy.

I found these 10 steps about how to show listen from a Google search.

  1. Face the speaker and have eye contact. …
  2. “Listen” to non-verbal cues too. …
  3. Don’t interrupt. …
  4. Listen without judging, or jumping to conclusions. …
  5. Don’t start planning what to say next. …
  6. Don’t impose your opinions or solutions. …
  7. Stay focused. …
  8. Ask questions.

I would add one more to this list:

9. Do not repeat what we have heard, because sharing stories involves trust.

my personal life in pictures - friends, family, outdoors

How We Can Apply These Skills, Simply?

So it is not difficult in theory to listen, but perhaps some of us are a bit out of practice. Practise listening to others is however something we can acquire with relative ease, and in so doing we will be doing a little bit to improve someone’s life ( or day/hour/ few minutes/ feelings of goodwill).

If we choose to give someone else a little of our valuable life time, we can follow these cues to be more compassionate, empowering and effective, for them and for ourselves. We might just learn something along the way too.

So when we next have the opportunity to listen to someone we care about, perhaps we could remember to pause, pay attention to them and give them the gift of our full focus space for a time, without jumping in or interrupting.

Imagine if the world offered a few more safe containers for us into which to pour our sorrow, pain, celebrations and joy. We might make it a little more beautiful, simply.

As always if you would like to know more you can read more about a simple beautiful life – living a lighter life on the blog.

Or if you prefer more succinct ramblings – there is the simple beautiful life Instagram home.

And as always – thanks for reading (which is a form of listening).