the joy of being listened to

The Joy of Being Heard

The Joy of Being Heard was written by guest author, Libby Husband

I feel as though sometimes in our fast-paced world there is pressure to rush a conversation. We engage in the phatic of quick back-and-forth dialogue rather than letting the other tell their story. We miss out on the wonderful feeling of being listened to.

I would say that this feeling is incomparable. The sensation of being truly heard, the excitement of sharing your thoughts, the relief when offloading something weighing you down and the simple pleasure of telling someone about your day.

Being listened to can make us feel validated. The knowledge that someone is taking the time to listen and learn about you is comforting.

This summer I decided that I wanted to delve back into some of my past passions, so I joined a summer acting class. Of course, I expected fun, creativity, and probably slight eccentricity but I hadn’t expected it to be a place where I felt so strongly and respectfully listened to.

One of the class exercises is free writing. We are given a word, sentence or feeling to inspire us and then a timer is set, and we begin to write whatever comes into mind. Naturally, most end up writing about personal experiences, which I also found myself doing. Last week I wrote about my feelings of self and my struggle of understanding my identity; it was a raw piece and perhaps something I’d usually keep to myself.

We have the option to read our writing aloud to the group if we feel comfortable and I decided I would. I cannot express to you how therapeutic it felt to read out loud the feelings that had been swirling around my head for weeks to a group of people fully engaged in listening. My thoughts, which had been previously trapped in an echo chamber of me and my brain, no longer seemed small, unimportant, or trivial, by reading aloud I could make sense of what I was feeling and by being listened to, I felt supported, respected, and understood.

Being listened to can fortify a relationship, as I experienced this summer. Having someone express that empathy for you makes you feel like they truly understand you, therefore breaking down any barrier you may have had up to protect your authenticity. After expressing myself in this way to my class, I felt so much more comfortable being myself and saying how I feel.

It felt liberating. Michael P. Nichols, PhD writes in his book, The Lost Art of Listening, that,

“When deeply felt but unexpressed feelings take shape in the words that we share and those words come back clarified, the result is a reassuring sense of being understood and a grateful feeling of humanness with the one who understands.”

The feeling of not being listened to is an unpleasant one. From my personal experience, it’s caused embarrassment and self-doubt. Sometimes I’ve felt as though I’ve spoken out into an empty room, what I’ve said left hanging unacknowledged in the air. I’m sure we’ve all had moments where we’ve doubted the validity or relevance of our thoughts due to the lack of being listened to. I personally find it difficult when I’m excited about something and that emotion is not heard. Although, I know I’ve also been the perpetrator of this, wrapped up in my head, not listening to others.

Overall, I believe we can all relate to the satisfaction felt when we have been truly listened to and empathise with the embarrassment and irritation felt when that is not the case. I believe the conversation around this is becoming louder and therefore hold onto the hope that listening will soon shift to the forefront of conversation. I hope we can all reflect on experiences where our words were wholeheartedly acknowledged and bring that to conversations we lead with others.


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