Whether you’re relatively new to recovery or you’ve been involved in recovery for a long time, you’d probably agree there are many areas of our lives that require a new approach, a new focus or taking steps along a new path, if we’re going to build and sustain a new life, one day at a time, free from active addiction.
However, one “tool” most all of us can benefit from by consciously applying more often in our daily lives is “true listening”… or worded slightly differently, “truly listening.”
Here is my favorite description of “truly listening”:
truly listening: The act of true listening “…is much more than allowing another to talk while waiting for a chance to respond. True listening is paying full attention to others and welcoming them into our very beings.” – Henri Nouwen, Professor at Harvard Divinity School
Read on and you’ll find four ways in which truly listening can significantly benefit your recovery, while simultaneously bestowing a gift to others!
1) When you truly listen to another, you can see more readily through the eyes and point of view of the person whom you’re with, so as to appreciate their perspective more fully, even if you’re not in agreement with each other. This way, you’re engaging them with more of a sense of receptivity and teamwork, which helps build a more tangible level of understanding between you and the other person. The result is typically a surprising sense of connection, previously not anticipated or experienced. “Listening means trying to see the problem the way the speaker sees it—which means not sympathy, which is feeling for him or her, but empathy, which is experiencing with that person. Listening requires entering actively and imaginatively into their situation and trying to understand a frame of reference different from your own.” – S.I. Hayakawa, Senator and Professor of English
2) When others—especially your loved ones—are talking with you, truly listening to them can give them the often forgotten gift of “being heard,” i.e., being acknowledged, being seen. Their entire outlook on life can shift by feeling someone—you, in this case—sincerely acknowledging and honoring them with your caring presence. Many of us have seen tears of gratitude slide down the cheeks of those who feel blessed at being truly listened to. “Sometimes all a person wants is an empathetic ear; all he or she needs is to talk it out. Just offering a listening ear and an understanding heart for his or her suffering can be a big comfort.” – Roy T. Bennett, Bestselling Author of Light in the Heart
3) Through the act of true listening, common communication problems can naturally be avoided. One of the most troublesome aspects of having a conversation with someone is the failure to understand them or mistakenly believing you understand them, when you actually are missing their main point. True listening starts with a silent mind (or at least that’s a useful starting place to strive for), holding no preconceived notions and seeking no particular outcome. Maintaining an openness and innocence to receive the other person’s message(s) to you paves the way for clearer, more streamlined and error-free communication. “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” – Stephen Covey, Bestselling Author of The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People
4) By truly listening to someone, you’re healing past tendencies to be self-centered—a common trait amongst addicts—and directly strengthening your ability to be of service to others. With this approach to communicating with another, you’re showing them you care about them and are consciously striving to simply be present for them to share with you who they really are, including their thoughts, sentiments and wishes. “Be a good listener, encourage others to talk about themselves, become genuinely interested in other people, try to honestly see things from the other person’s point of view, and be sympathetic to the other person’s ideas and desires.” – Dale Carnegie, Author and Lecturer associated with early Self-Development Movement
Hopefully, the next time you find yourself about to engage in a conversation with someone, you’ll feel inspired to truly listen to them, both for their benefit and yours!