“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.” — Karl A. Menniger
Listening doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Many of us seem to talk endlessly throughout the day with no difficulty and gravitate towards others who are boisterous or fun. Our leaders talk loudly via microphone a mile-a-minute and we sometimes come home to watch hours of television that often spouts opinions as fact and can make statements boldly, giving us information and sensory input for as long as we care to keep it on. In a 2012 article by Seth S. Horowitz in The New York Times, it was shared that: “Listening is a skill that we’re in danger of losing in a world of digital distraction and information overload.” Even over seven years ago the dangers of information overload were apparent.
It can be interesting, then, to come into the therapy environment where one is meant to be listened to and understood on a deep level, where there is room for you to spread out and fill in all your thoughts, worries, and goals.
Listening is a skill that does not come easily in a world that often gives preferential treatment to those who are bold, loud, who take action rather than receive. Typically, we are not encouraged to be in a receptive place, open to the needs of others whether they be family, friend or community member. However, you might know the feeling—the feeling of being truly listened to… Perhaps you have a friend you like to grab coffee with, she makes you feel like you have center stage and that everything you’re saying is being received while you regale her with your weekly activities, doings and goings-on. Maybe when you were younger you had a teacher who heard you out as you spoke about things going on in your family or with your friends. There is something deeply nourishing about being listened to. And likewise there’s something deeply nourishing about feeling heard and therefore valued.
All of that should be part of the ideal counseling relationship. The professional-personal relationship between a client and practitioner hinges on your feeling heard and acknowledged. You deserve to be heard each and every time you come to counseling appointments. It may sound like a given, but if one is not used to being listened to you may not expect how deeply therapeutic it may feel to have a counselor who’s skilled at listening and taking in your history, your dreams, your fears. It is then the therapist’s job to aid in discernment as you discover what it means, what the underlying values are in what you say, relevant histories related to your narrative, and currents that are beneath the surface of your day-to-day struggles and needs. Life is improved with listening individuals in it and you’ve likely already found one in your counselor.
Horowitz, S.S. 2012, November 9th). The Science and Art of Listening. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/11/opinion/sunday/why-listening-is-so-much-more-than-hearing.html