Updated: Dec 1, 2021
There is much more than just a semantic difference between listening and hearing, so it's no wonder that the way in which we receive sound can have such varying outcomes for the person who produced it!
Hearing happens when the ear receives sound in the form of sound waves and is purely physiological. We cannot, strictly speaking, choose whether or not we're going to hear something; it will happen automatically. For example, if a baby cries in the supermarket, we hear it. When there's traffic whizzing by in the street, we hear it and when someone's phone goes off in the cinema, we hear that too (although we'd really rather not).
Listening on the other hand, can only happen intentionally. It is a choice made by an individual to pay attention to what they are hearing and to try to understand it.
And therein lies its power.
I was fortunate enough to experience the power of listening during the first lockdown, when a very good friend and former colleague organised for a few of us to meet weekly via zoom. To put it plainly, I had grossly underestimated up until this point, just how transformative listening (and being listened to) could be.
For one glorious hour each Thursday evening, we all took advantage of the opportunity to off-load and share the experiences and challenges we had faced that week and to finally say out loud all the thoughts that had been rolling around in our heads since our last meeting.
Not only did it save our sanity and preserve our mental health in such intense and unprecedented circumstances but it also revived and renewed us and provided us with the energy to face the next seven days. Moreover, it served as a timely reminder of how far as a species we've deviated from those simple but absolutely vital things that can truly make us happy.
Because the impact of being truly listened to can be HUGE.
You know that someone is truly listening to you when they give you their undivided focus and attention and when it is clear they understand the feelings behind your words and that you will not be judged, regardless of what you may share.
And this experience is both freeing and healing.
Because when we feel this safe, we share more. Maybe even more than we realised we needed to or that we were aware was going on internally. And when what we share is met with empathy and not judgement, we feel valued and validated. And when we feel valued, we are happier, more confident, more grateful and more likely to extend the hand of kindness to the next person. And couldn't the world do with more of that right now?
Click here to find out more about our parent listening group and book your place.