27 Jul The Gift of Listening
I am fortunate to have some very wise friends who happen to be proud parents of some pretty remarkable young adults. As a parent of young (and might I add remarkable *wink*) adults myself, I care deeply about them. I am also curious; I want to observe and learn as my relationships with them grow and evolve.
My friend Lisa and I were on a hike recently. We covered a lot of ground, literally and metaphorically. As often happens, our talk landed on the topic of our families. There’s nothing like fresh air, movement and the forest to facilitate meaningful conversations.
We’re both straddling worlds where children are in various stages of launching: post-graduate studies, work, carving out their own identities in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. These young people have very full plates!
While there is much to celebrate and certainly be hopeful for, there are, of course, occasional growing pains. As parents, we are deeply conditioned to keep them safe and encourage good decision making. Sometimes, we forget that they are very capable, and we step in, proferrig our worldly advice. As I’m sure you can imagine, it doesn’t always land gracefully.
Recently, I prefaced a conversation with one of my boys that I see my role as more of a sounding board and less of an advice-dispensing machine. Sometimes, I will venture with “This is what my almost-58 year-old self wishes I could tell my 25-year-old self,” which is often welcomed with appreciation (if not always heeded *wink*).
Lisa, who has lovely, rich and mature relationships with her brilliant daughters had this to say about the evolving relationship with one of them: “Max coached me, and now when we are about to have a deep conversation, I’ll ask if she wants me to listen or if she wants input.” I love this approach. Sometimes, we just need someone to listen and hold space for us. Sometimes, we really do want advice or perspective. Sometimes, we need a blend of each. By establishing this at the start of the conversation, there’s a significantly greater likelihood that our wise wisdom will be met with appreciation and openness. By allowing people to speak without stepping in to solve all of their problems, we demonstrate our confidence in their problem-solving skills.
While we were discussing this in the context of being mothers, it reminded me of all the other relationships in our lives and how they can be enriched if we focused on listening before stepping in with solutions. As a chiropractor, an important part of my job was fixing problems. As a yoga and movement teacher, I create classes that are “solutions” to problems or potential problems, so it can be easy to default into problem-solving mode when in conversation with family and friends. It’s helpful for me to remember that sometimes the very best thing I can do is to listen fully with an open heart.
Our mindful movement and yoga practices can play an important role as they cultivate listening skills at the deepest level. This has the potential to deepen and enrich our sense of connection to others. Being seen, being heard, and being held in compassion is perhaps the very best gift we can give and receive.
May your actions, thoughts and deeds uplift others.