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Being Heard: Attention, Awareness, and Mindfulness

When I feel heard, I am connected. When my beloved lifts my chin so that I make eye contact when I speak, I feel intense vulnerability and also intensely cared for. There is no need for him to say anything when his body language portrays that he is here for me, patient, and listening.  

When I feel ignored, I am disconnected. When my friend glances at their watch as I share a heartfelt story, I feel unimportant. My friend probably thinks that I don’t notice, but I do. I’m sure they don’t mean to hurt me, but it stings all the same. 

I want to make people feel intensely cared for, not ignored.  

As I take a moment to honestly reflect on my own listening skills, I figure I will make a list of some of my weaknesses: 

  • Being distracted by texts and other notifications on my phone if my phone is visible. 
  • Continuing a conversation past the point where I am able to be present. Instead of drawing a boundary and saying that I am out of time or energy, I try to force it. They can probably see my eyes glaze over! 
  • Making it about me. I’ve gotten better at this one, thankfully. However, I sometimes struggle to know when it’s affirming for me to acknowledge a shared experience, and when I should simply continue to hold space. 

 

And my strengths: 

  • Empathy through body language. I have learned how eye contact, facial expressions, and a posture of openness can make the speaker feel more comfortable. 
  • Asking thoughtful follow-up questions. When someone encourages me to say more and to take up more space, I feel heard and important. I try to do the same for others.  
  • Warmth. When I try, I can emit warm and loving energy while communicating with others.  

 

What I’ve found is that my strengths and weaknesses are basically the same skills on the opposite ends of the spectrum. Therefore, I guess what really matters here is intention, awareness, and mindfulness. I am a good listener when I am intentional, aware, and mindful. I am a bad listener when I am tired, distracted, and in my head.  

Like anything else, it takes practice. Check out our Becoming a Professional Listener course to begin your listening journey and make others feel heard. 

Ally Fisher is the Convener for Growth at the Foundation for Family and Community Healing, and a Unitarian Universalist seminarian at Meadville Lombard Theological School.