It is easy to forget we are not alone. When I was working in the garden this morning with my cat, Isabella and talking to her about what I wanted to do today, it suddenly popped into my head that she was my friend. She was easier to talk to than anyone.
That’s great and I have no problem with that. I am quite content with having a cat as my best friend.
She really is my therapist. I can talk to her about everything and she is not judgmental. I always feel better after our conversations. She helps me sort through my thoughts and my emotions. She calms me down.
Hold on a second. Do you ever talk to your animals like they are humans? If you do, good for you because you have an outlet for all your “stuff”. You know. The things you may not be comfortable talking about. Maybe you do not have anyone to talk to or more importantly someone who will listen, truly listen. Someone who cares enough.
“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”Ernest Hemingway
Why is it that we do not listen? Thank goodness for Isabella and all the other animals that fill the void left by humans.
How do we fill that void in ourselves? Can we teach ourselves to listen with intention?
We are trainable in most every aspect of our lives. We learn all sorts of skills throughout our life at all different ages, young and old. I hope we have the ability to learn to listen.
There are a few life skills that immediately come to mind. We talk and write about them all the time. We talk about how important they are for our personal and professional lives.
Sympathy and Compassion are certainly life skills we should all have. Both are important. Sympathy means the act or capacity for sharing the painful feelings of another. Compassion is feeling sympathy toward someone’s pain together with a desire to alleviate it. Both require the ability to listen and comprehend the feelings of another person.
How about Mindfulness? What exactly is mindfulness? According to the dictionary it is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
Certainly focusing one’s awareness on the present moment would apply wouldn’t it? The problem being that in this definition the focus is on one’s self not the other person.
What about Empathy? Empathy is simply recognizing emotions in others, and being able to “put yourself in another person’s shoes” – understanding the other person’s perspective and reality.
Okay, to be empathetic you have to think beyond yourself and your own concerns. So guess what? We would need to listen, really listen, to be able to understand the other person’s reality.
Gosh darn, cats are good at this you know? I always feel great after talking to Isabella.
How do we learn to Listen? How can we become more Mindful, show more Sympathy and Compassion and be Empathetic?
Put yourself in the moment, not your moment but rather their moment. How is the other person acting? Do you have any idea why they are acting, or reacting, that way in that moment?
What attitude do you have? Do you want to win or overpower the other person? Do you want to move on without understanding or do you want to respect them by acknowledging their opinion?
How about simply asking the other person to explain their opinion? That should be the easiest thing to do right? Now you can put your listening skills to the test.
So you have asked the question, are you truly going to listen? Body language is key here. Believe me if you are not listening the other person will know. Be careful about what message you are conveying.
Listening is a skill. When you truly want to listen to what the other person is saying you are going to use their body language to judge them and to help you understand. Just like they are using yours.
Listen and block out other distractions. Is the phone ringing, is there someone else talking? Get rid of the distractions.
Listen to what they are saying. What tone of voice are they using?
Watch them as they are speaking. Are they making eye contact? Are they sitting or standing with their body turned away from you? Are they hunched over? Are they showing emotion?
By listening and watching their body language you may feel like they are not being totally open or honest. You may see their fear or apprehension.
To truly show empathy you have to care and attempt to understand what they are feeling. What are they saying? Do you understand? Do you care? If you do not care they will know.
It has been my experience that when you are truly empathizing with someone you will know that you have been able to connect with them. You will know and so will they. If you are able to achieve that then you have been successful. Keep that door open. Let them know you will be happy to talk to them at any time.
Sound easy? Ask my cat. She’s an expert!
As always, thank you for reading my blog. Have a great day!