Lately, I've had the enormous pleasure of noticing that friends of mine tend to come to me when they need comfort, advice, guidance, or straight up someone to listen to them. I've been feeling really humbled by that, feeling tremendously lucky that who I am is able to grow who you are in even a small way. There is something about me that comes across in some sort of way that allows others to trust me, as they hand me the golden nuggets of their innermost thoughts, fears, hopes, wishes, and dreams, for me to absorb and respond to thoughtfully.
If I've done nothing else, as least I've done that.
My best friend told me the other day: “You're an open-minded person.” She then went on to mention how much I've helped people I've dated and befriended.
It’s just something I'd never really thought of about myself before.
But this article isn't about me tooting my own horn. It’s about the lessons I've learned from my approach to listening to those around you in life.
In college, I was beside myself with smug amusement that I had to take an entire course called “Listening” as part of my Bachelor’s degree in Speech Communication.
“Listening?” I laughed to myself. “What am I going to do, sit silently at my desk staring at the wall? Sit outside and become one with nature?” My lips curled at the edges at the thought of myself wrapped around a tree in a warm embrace.
My dad was always the type of person to laugh at these sorts of values, and though I haven't taken much from that relationship, for some reason that piece of negativity latched onto me for the better part of my life. People like that, calm, steady, learned people, are what he'd consider “hippies,” and are thereby a joke in life.
Well, I'm sure my prizewinning hunter of a dad would bust a gut laughing at his daughter now: a practicing yogi, dedicated vegan and animal rights activist, a believer in herbal medicine, crystal healing, and all things mystical.
Back to that Listening course. I spent actual course hours sitting through guided meditation. I sat outside in my campus quad and was challenged by my professor to write down every single sound I heard: every bird chirp, every roar of a lawn mower’s engine, every bit of gossip as students tinkered nearby. It was an amazing experience to actually honor and respect what I had just thought of as background noise: everything around you can teach you something.
Though that course only lasted one semester, and really only brushed the surface on these kinds of Eastern philosophical concepts, I took the lessons I had from it and challenged myself to apply them to my life. I had never been a good listener. I spoke more than I even...thought. I was impulsive and emotional and often didn't even grasp what others had said to me until later on. My professor would define this as “self thought,” the idea of thinking of your next sentence during the seconds another person is taking to communicate theirs.
What a shitty way to be, I thought to myself. I knew that she was describing me, and I hated that I was that person. I needed to change, and so I did.