Leaving Lockdown: Have an Open Heart
Posted on 27th April 2020 at 15:54
Let's review our 5-point-plan for leaving lockdown thusfar:
4. Have an open heart
Now that you’re well-placed to say everything that you want to say, listen with an open heart to what the people you care about have to say to you.
The Grief Recovery Method teaches us how to listen and comfort others without trying to fix, analyse or explain (or change the topic back to ourselves!). Instead, we use the image of being a “heart with ears” – offering our full presence and listening with care and patience. If, and when we do respond, we do so without offering judgement, analysis or criticism. Rather than telling someone we know “exactly how they feel,” we can instead acknowledge their feelings, such as “It sounds like you’ve really been through it.”
The best support possible
By offering a friend or family member your full presence and a listening ear, you are offering them the best support and comfort you could possibly give – the chance for them to speak about their feelings with emotional honesty, without the fear of being shut down or offered platitudes.
The problem is, many of us haven’t really been taught how to listen, only to hear!
Here are some pointers:
1. Be Present
One of our earlier posts was about being present. Being present is a great place to start learning how to listen. It means you can listen without distraction because you are ‘in the moment.’ (If you think you can listen and check your phone at the same time, this article will prove that theory wrong.)
2. Don’t be in a hurry
Make time to have more in-depth conversations and set aside an hour or so.
We can be in such a rush to get to that moment of connection with the person we’re trying to listen to that we can end up cutting the other person off short. When you do this, you can end up jumping to a lot of conclusions without letting the speaker finish their sentence! The problem with that is that you don’t know where the other person is going. And even if you do, jumping in will often feel like an interruption rather than a genuine moment in which you and the speaker truly feel each other.
3. Let the speaker get their full thought out before responding
Sometimes, when we think we’re listening, what we’re actually doing is thinking about our response. You can’t do both of those things at the same time. It takes up too much brain power. You may think you’re listening with all good intentions but you’re not doing a very good job of it. It’s ok if you don’t fully understand what they’re saying straight away, and it’s fine to pause for a minute while you gather your thoughts, even if it does feel a bit awkward. This ensures that the person has said everything they need to before carrying on. Also, if you start interrupting, while you might think you’re offering help, the speaker might clam up and stop talking.
4. Listen without judgement, comparison or analysis
Whatever the person is telling you, they trust you enough to open up to you. Listen without passing judgement or without telling them what to do, or how to feel. Don’t start any sentence with ‘you need to,’ ‘you should,’ ‘you must’ or ‘you have to,’ as no matter what you say after that, the reaction isn’t likely to be a positive one. These phrases imply that you are ‘instructing’ them and can feel like an attack. It is okay to make suggestions. Imagine someone saying: ‘you need to get out, it’ll do you good'. How does that make you feel?
5. Resist the urge to fix people
If you’re listening to someone you care about, it’s only natural that you don’t want to see them hurting or going through a difficult time. However, if you’re not sure if they want your advice or not, you could always ask questions such as: ‘Is there anything I can do to help, or do you need to just talk about it?’ or ‘Would you like some help to come up with some solutions?’
Listening is a skill
Listening really is a skill and takes effort and energy to do. Pay attention to body language, tone of voice, what the person’s face is telling you. How is the other person speaking? Do they sound tense or anxious? If you’re truly listening, you’re taking all that into account, and that leaves much less space for you to focus on other things, like what you’re going to say next, or what you’re planning to have for dinner. (To learn more about building listening skills, check out this article in Heart Matters Magazine.)
If you’re aware that someone needs a listening ear but don’t know how to start the process, here are some useful questions that you could ask to prompt them:
What’s happening with you today?
Sounds like you’re frustrated
Looks like you’re unhappy, want to talk about it?
These are non-invasive questions that require more than a ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ or ‘I’m fine’ answer.
Many people are feeling an array of emotions during lockdown. Remember, they don’t need to be fixed, they do need to be heard.
Be a ‘heart with ears'.
The final part of our 5-Point Lockdown Plan will cover how to say goodbye.
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