Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Julie Nevison, founder of Aware Parents Aware Kids, recently gifted me with a slim little gem of a book called Listening Partnerships for Parents, by Patty Wipfler targeted at listening skills. I have always thought of myself as a good listener and over the years have actively worked on improving my skills. Recently I am finding that there is WAY more for me to learn and put into practice with those I love, clients I work with, and friendships that lighten my life.
Eons ago my husband and I took a class together taught by Steve and Cathy Brody, a psychologist and therapist husband and wife team. We learned the skill of mirroring what someone said. This was supposed to help them feel heard. Unfortunately we only learned the basic rote skill. In practice we simply fed back the other person's words before rushing forward with our own ideas, complaints, or needs. My husband rightly HATED it. I had to wait for more than twenty years to see the art of mirroring done so gracefully by Christi Silva as she facilitated La Leche League meetings. Not only did she mirror but she organized and sorted the random thoughts, feelings and ideas presented without ever interjecting her own ideas or making the speaker feel judged. She handed this back to the speaker as a gift. I listened. I heard you. Thank you for sharing.
Struggling as a parent and feeling I wished to strengthen my relationship with my son I read, "How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen and Listen So Your Kids Will Talk" by Faber and Mazlish. Oh ho! So if I wanted my son to talk I needed to STOP talking! Now there's a concept. I still have a hard time with this at times. Sitting and waiting rather than engaging with questions isn't easy for me. Also this was the first time I heard the idea that as the listener, especially as a parent, it isn't your role to give them solutions or fix things for the speaker. If you just wait attentively, supportively, your child will begin to think of their own solutions. Then you can help them "try their solutions on" to see if they feel right to them or have the chance of actually working.
A few years ago taking Tory Blue's NVC class (non-violent communication) again shifted my whole perception of listening. She opened my eyes to all the critical dialogue going on in my head about myself and the person I was listening to; all the ways I thought I would, could, or should "fix" their problem. I also became aware of the concept of unmet needs creating dis-ease commonly felt by us as anger, frustration, sadness, or tension while met needs create happiness, satisfaction and joy. Communication is simply a way of asking to get unmet needs met. Sometimes others are willing and can meet those needs. Sometimes they can't or do not wish to meet the need. Often because meeting your need is in direct conflict with one of THEIR needs. This isn't wrong or bad. It just is. We may have to meet our own need or seek that need being met by a different person or in a different way. And guess what? That's okay!
La Leche League training puts a lot of emphasis on listening skills. We are taught to help a mother observe, look for clues, and sort through her own situation. We give her pertinent information she may not have which could help her clarify what she desires to do. We express confidence in her and her own abilities to know what to do and to do what needs to be done. We tell her whatever she decides we know it will be best for her and her family. Or perhaps we are expressing confidence in her baby's abilities to learn or conquer a struggle, tap into their innate wisdom and abilities, or the hard wiring of their genetic coding. In essence we are modeling the behavior of listening to her baby rather than any other voices, especially if listening to those voices shakes her confidence in her mothering abilities.
My CranioSacral and Ortho-Bionomy studies and Feldenkrais explorations deepened my understanding of the many ways to "listen" to myself or someone else through physical touch. Again I saw that no real communication would happen if I was anything but completely accepting of what was, rather than what should be. Only after awareness and acceptance could I begin to explore other possibilities. Doors keep opening and new levels of understanding are revealed. Awareness and intention allow us to blend with another physical being through our hands. Permission has to be asked and granted on many levels before another human being will feel safe enough to reveal themselves to you. This is a sacred trust.
As an Intuitive Doula I listen with my head, heart, and hands. I listen to her hopes, dreams and plans. I listen to her birth struggles. I listen to her joy or sadness when the birth is over. So much of what I bring to a birth is simply my attentive presence. Feeling really listened to and honored through the intensity of birth is what is missing in so many women's birth stories. I listen with my ears, my brain, my hands, my intuition, my intention. Listening brings self-awareness.
Reading Patty Wipfler's little book I realized I STILL have so much to learn about active, caring listening and acceptance. Some of it was simply a good review; helping me brush up on things I already knew. There were also good reminders of things I had learned but still forget to use effectively in every day life. Most importantly it brought me a new layer of understanding about pain, hurts, and healing. Patty says unhealed childhood hurts leave scars that create rigid, irrational behavior. This makes sense to me. In order to heal those hurts we need to be LISTENED to. Feeling truly heard accepted and loved can help us release tears. Tears allow us to rid our bodies of trapped emotions. Emotional tears contain the harmful chemicals that have been trapped in our cells; frozen in rigidity. From my body work studies I know these unhealed hurts also leave physical scars in the form of physical rigidity or dis-ease trapped throughout our bodies; aching to be listened to, released, and healed. When our body feels listened to it finally is able to let go.
I am lucky to have Julie drop into my life at this time. "When the student is ready the teacher will appear." Thank you Julie.