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The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them. Ralph Nichols

“No one listens to me but you,” I heard my son say to our Scottish Terrier. Lulu is our second dog and she listens just as well.

Listening is the cornerstone of a good relationship. We need to feel heard to feel understood. When we don’t have the time, patience, skills or interest to listen to people they can become lonely and depressed. During a time of depression feeling listened to can seem as critical as breathing air.

Sometimes it takes one person in someone’s life to listen to them that helps them move on. We hear about students who found that teacher.

I had a conversation with my husband the other day. He doesn’t see the reason for long conversations with strangers. My response is you usually don’t have short conversations when they are short that’s just chit chat. Real conversations that impact people take a little longer.

If you have lots of people in your life you may not need conversation so much. You get it from everyone. Some people are not so lucky, their circle is small. People don’t always have someone to talk to. Sometimes the most important things are said to strangers because they don’t feel they can talk to their family. They would be judged, ridiculed, ostracized.

Listening is not “Yes, but.” Listening is not, “this is what you should do.” Listening is not getting defensive. I need to work on this and not giving advice. Sometimes we only work out our thoughts in conversation. They are all jumbled up in there waiting to be released.

We often misinterpret each other’s messages while under the illusion that a common understanding has been achieved. Larry Barker

Sometimes people feel they can only talk about safe subjects but it isn’t the safe subjects they need to talk about. I’m reading a book called “The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd. It is her journey of finding herself as a Christian woman and writer and the conflicts of how women are portrayed in the bible and in Church. The second created and the first to sin. The woman is man’s glory and her glory is her hair. Let women learn in silence and be submissive. I permit no woman to teach or have authority over a man.

I remember learning those things and how they impacted me as a girl on the cusp of womanhood. When you learn these things, who do you talk to about them? When I expressed it to one of my Aunt’s and I don’t know what I said. She replied, “there are gifts, or joys or something in being a woman.” It was probably the best answer because it was true, and she didn’t make me feel stupid for not liking what I was hearing.

It seems like a small thing, to acknowledge what someone is feeling and not diminish it. She could have said I didn’t have a right to not like what I was hearing, or to question the bible, and it would have affected me in a completely different way.

When someone listens to us, really listens we feel accepted, understood, valued and validated. We don’t feel invisible or alone and it gives us a voice to help us find our self again.

It is very powerful to be a listener. It is a skill worth developing. I’m trying, it isn’t always easy especially with some of the people we need to listen to the most. That is when defensiveness rears its ugly head. We feel if we let them say what they are saying we are agreeing what they are saying is true. A lot of the time we don’t agree with their side of the story, not completely.

We need to save our side of the story for another time. If we are telling our side of the story and they are telling their side of the story at the same time, no one is listening. No one feels listened to. There is no understanding, there is no healing. This is how a lot of problems don’t get solved and yet are talked about endlessly. But, we do communicate, we do talk we protest, it just isn’t working.

We can tell ourselves we listen endlessly, but our “yes buts,” and telling our side of the story doesn’t move the relationship along. It becomes an endless loop of conversations that go nowhere, change nothing, they are not effective.

We need to learn to listen. If we have rifts in our families listening is the likely antidote. Listening is the key to understand and understanding is the key to healing. It isn’t easy but it’s worth it.

The biggest mistake made by most human beings: listening to only half, understanding just a quarter, and telling double. Unknown

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