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The Best Way to Love is to Listen January 20, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Mindfulness, People.

Imagine that you are volunteering on a crisis hotline and a frantic caller calls in to discuss options for dealing with abuse at the hands of her spouse. 

You use your training to go over all the options available to victims of domestic violence, from restraining orders to shelters, but none of them seem to fit her situation. 

As one after another option is rejected, you realize that you may not be able to help this woman find a solution to her problem. 

Desperate to help, you start to go over the options again, but she interrupts and says, “Thanks.”

Surprised, you respond, “But I didn’t do anything.  I haven’t helped you at all.”

“Of course you did.  It’s been ages since someone really listened to me.” 

In our hurry-scurry lives, we often feel we are not being heard.  Instead of tuning in to hear what we have to say, people tune us out.    

When someone takes the time to listen to us, and hear what we are saying, it feels great.  We feel validated. 

We feel better about ourselves and the world seems a bit brighter . . . even if nothing else about the situation has changed.

Sometimes the best way to love is to listen.

No rules.  Just write!

Related posts:  Ignorance, Apathy, and Dishonesty * To Thine Own Self Be True * Kindly Be Honest * Are You OK Right Now?  *  Bending the Rules . . . And the Truth


1. nancycurteman - January 20, 2011

Of course your advice apples to everyone, but it is extremely important to listen you children. Start listening when they first begin to talk and that will ensure that they are still willing to talk to you when they’re teenagers.

nrhatch - January 20, 2011

Wonderful advice, NC.

When parents don’t listen actively enough to really hear what their wee ones are saying . . . they drown out their children’s preferences with their own.

Much better to replay back what the child has said, “You’re really mad. You really wanted those cookies. You don’t want to wait until after dinner for dessert.”

As they would say in the military: H.U.A.
Heard. Understood. Acknowledged.

You don’t have to give in to a toddler’s demands . . . but it’s wonderful to let them know that their demands did not fall on deaf ears.

2. Paula Tohline Calhoun - January 20, 2011

To this post, what is there to say but “Amen!”

But you know I can’t stop there – I have to add a story:

When our eldest son Josh was very young – about 3 or 4, he had the opportunity to spend some time with my very dear and beloved Aunt Clair. It was obvious that he loved her too, and enjoyed being with her. When my Mom aked him one day why he liked her so mucb, without hesitating he answered, “Because she listens”

Out of the mouths of babes. . .

nrhatch - January 20, 2011

That is AWESOME! Yay, Clair!

3. tsuchigari - January 20, 2011

With two little monkeys that chatter all (and I mean ALL) the time sometimes it is hard to play the patient parent card and listen. But I know that their little faces light up and they get all excited when I do.

How do you teach the, “if you talk less, I’ll pay attention more” lesson? 🙂

nrhatch - January 20, 2011

When monkeys are happily chattering away, it’s probably okay to listen with only one ear.

But when they are upset . . . tune in! 🙂

4. Cindy - January 20, 2011

Funny; I found this quote recently and it seems to be in sync with a lot of blogs I’m currently reading:

“If one day you realize I haven’t talked to you in a while, it’s not that I don’t care, it’s because you pushed me away and left me there.”

nrhatch - January 21, 2011

Personally, I’ve grown tired of unilateral friendships.

If I’m the only one making an effort to keep the relationship going, I stop. And see what happens. If they don’t make a move . . . we drift further and further apart.

Thanks, Cin

5. kateshrewsday - January 21, 2011

Ooooh, you don’t pull your punches, do you, Nancy?
I am the world’s worst listener. Ask my husband.
I shall print out your post and staple it to my forehead.
Course, I won’t see it there: but I shall have to listen to everyone else telling me to listen. That will be a start.

nrhatch - January 21, 2011

I can be a grand listener. And I can also be quite impatient. It depends upon whom is doing the talking. 🙂

If it’s a tiny tot, I’m all ears.
If it’s a wise sage, I tune in.
If it’s a drama queen with her 47th crisis of the week, I tune out. 🙂

6. Maggie - January 21, 2011

I like this post a lot. Listening is the path to true understanding of someone else and their situation.

nrhatch - January 21, 2011

I agree. When we really listen, we can hear between the lines. 🙂

7. Carol Ann Hoel - January 21, 2011

You are so right, Nancy. Great post. People need to feel validated. Listening is a gift we can give that costs only our time. Time is precious, but what is more worthy than enriching someone’s life? Blessings to you…

nrhatch - January 21, 2011

Thanks, Carol Ann

Active listening and “sitting there but not really paying attention” generally take the same amount of time.

If we don’t want to listen to someone droning on and on about the same old issue, we shouldn’t feel like a “captive audience.”

But if we don’t want to listen, we shouldn’t pretend that we are. 😉

Carol Ann Hoel - January 21, 2011

You are right about that. Time isn’t all that it takes, is it? It also requires that we care enough to pay attention. I have to admit to times of feeling like a captive audience. Selfish me. I might as well have listened more closely since I couldn’t escape anyway. I might ask at this point: What do you do when in a situation you describe? How do you break away without being insulting? It doesn’t happen often, but I hate being rude. I’ll do my best to hang in there.

nrhatch - January 21, 2011

It really depends on who it is.

If it’s a close friend, I may listen just because I love them and they “need” my ear.

If it’s a mere acquaintance, I might try to steer the conversation in a different direction ~ “Hey, that reminds me of this great article I read the other day . . ..”

If it’s someone I’ll never see again (example, someone sitting next to me on a plane), I might say, “I don’t want to talk about this any more.”

I guess I don’t feel that I HAVE to listen to everyone who THINKS they have something to say. 😉

Carol Ann Hoel - January 21, 2011

Thank for your reply. Good answer. Blessings…

8. Ollin - January 21, 2011

Such an IMPORTANT reminder.

I struggle with this. My mind is often occupied, I get so distracted, and when I focus I tend to shut everything else out. I often have to remind myself that I should just listen.

Oh, and I am reminded that sometimes all I need is for someone to listen to me. Great post nancy!

nrhatch - January 21, 2011

Thanks, Ollin. I think Paula’s anecdote says it all . . .

“Because she listens.” 🙂

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