Looking back in my last post, I realize that I was a bit frazzled as I wrote it.
Clue #1: I didn’t capitalize appropriately. Some bloggers do this for style. I was frazzled and writing fast.
Clue #2: I wrote the post in 23 minutes. Yes – from “begin new post” to “publish post” with “categories” and “tags” in between, only 23 minutes flew by.
Clue #3: The post has had more shares than any other post I have ever written. Frazzled, raw, and unfiltered posts grab readers right in the gut, and readers share.
I have had several private messages through Twitter, Favebook, and my email….I’m so glad it is helping people to articulate, share, listen and hope.
I am also really sad that the post even had to exist.
I currently have a lot on my plate. Those who know me recognize that I say this a lot. The truth is: this might be the fullest it has been in a while, and it’s going to stay full for a bit. As a good friend/mentor says, “It is what is it.” The days will be long and interesting, and we will get through them.
What I do not want to do in the midst of this busy time, though, is to lose my ability to listen.
I should pause here and share that I struggle to be a good listener. I tend to want to interrupt, fill in your sentence, and move on to the action part – usually where I fix whatever it is that happens to be wrong. However, I have been trying hard recently (and for the past decade!) to look others in the eyes, be still, and give space for them to explore in my presence rather than dragging them past themselves into a solution.
I have sat on the receiving end of this practice with friends, my counselor, and mentors. This is where the work of improving mental health happens. Mental health doesn’t improve because you give me your recipe for success.
Mental health improves because I feel heard.
How can we be better listeners?
- Close our mouths as others talk. I’m not kidding. We need to get over ourselves and not want to get in a word.
- Breathe deeply and look the other in the eyes. The calm that we present will help the other remain calm even when the situation may be very chaotic.
- Do not fear silence – in fact, count to five or ten before talking when the other person pauses.
- Ask open-ended questions that allow others to understand their issues better. An example of this happened over the weekend when a friend asked me to clarify a statement I had made. It was not for her understanding that she asked the question but rather as a way for me to see over the issue and past what bothered me.
- Just listen. Just be there. If the other person sheds a few (or many) tears, honor those tears, let them flow, and don’t comfort to the point of stifling what might be a very healing or cathartic moment.
I share quite openly that I struggle with mental health issues. the last post I wrote published less than three hours before I spoke to our church’s youth group about mental health and their faith.
I told them that there are adults willing to help them. I told them that because I have experienced that truth over and over again in my life.
I have run into the person here or there who has not known how to listen. If it is a tough time for me, that is really, really hard. When I’m in a more gracious place, I realize that I’m not always so good at this art of listening either.
It’s a new day. It’s a new week. Football season is over, and the Broncos won (yay!).
As we start off this week, let’s try to practice listening more and taking less. We may learn more about others than we ever dreamed was possible.