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I remember watching the Oprah show one time and she talked about a moment she had with a guest on her show. She described a split-second when she caught the person's eye and saw his reaction when he felt that she had really heard him. She said, "I witnessed the one thing all of us want: to be seen and heard. And it was beautiful."
Why Can't We Get People to Listen to Us?
Because the world is a noisy, distracting place, and the distractions keep mounting with each passing moment. Because of all the distractions and stress from the distractions, each of us feel that WE are not being heard so we talk more, and louder. It's only natural. When we're upset about something or very passionate about it, I believe our ears shut off and we talk even louder because what we have to say is so critically important to us that nothing else matters but getting the words out.
There's a problem with this however, because the person or people that you're screaming at also want to be heard. And they want to react to what you just said. They want to react so much and so vehemently that they start talking louder. So you see where this is going, right? No one is heard but everyone desperately keeps trying.
Our Damn Ego
The other big thing that gets in the way is our damn ego. If someone says something that sets us off, touches a nerve, or hits our insecurities, the ego steps up and says, "Oh no! We must defend ourselves!" Because we can't be exposed or vulnerable. Basically, the ego's job is to protect us but we have to really examine if we're in actual danger. Most of the time we're not.
But here's the interesting thing about the ego: it fears that listening or seeing someone else will result in a loss of self. When we are fully present, when we listen and really see someone we not only fill the need of the other person but also within ourself. That's why Oprah said it was so beautiful when we witnessed the moment her guest felt seen and heard. She experienced it too.
Be the Change You Want
Gandhi had it right. First, you have to experience what it is to be seen and heard before you can give it to another, and receive it from another. It all starts with you. Every. Damn. Thing. Starts. With. You.
In your crazy day, week, month, life, you absolutely MUST find time to shut out all the distractions. Turn off the phone. Shut down Netflix. Don't listen to the radio. Just be quiet. You'll find that you don't like it, or that it's really uncomfortable. You're going to want to grab your phone and check it. Or you're going to start hearing all the chatter in your head, and some of it is not very nice.
You need to stick with it. Stay with the feeling of being uncomfortable and remind yourself that you're not going to die from it. Then listen. Put your hand on your heart and hear it beating. That's you. You are listening to yourself, perhaps for the first time in a very long time.
Practice doing this for a few days and you'll notice that you're more open to listening to others. You'll also find that some people will begin to listen to you. Some people won't listen to you, ever. But YOU get to choose how much time, if ever, you spend with the non-listeners. And you wouldn't have figured this out if you hadn't listened to yourself first.
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