I love connecting with others! That is what feeds my soul and that is one of the reasons I do what I do. People come into my office from all walks of life. Listening and learning from them enriches my life and helps me help others by teaching me about themselves and their experiences. They come with all types of problems, hurts, questions and desires. They are seekers, they are strong and I admire them. Many worry I am going to think they are crazy. Far from it! They are my heros. They have fear and they confront their fears.
Sometimes I listen with my ears and sometimes I listen with my eyes. We communicate nonverbally as much as we do verbally and if we take the time to notice, we can learn how to connect. On a flight to Africa a few years ago I sat next to an older looking Ethiopian women who couldn’t speak English. Ever so often she would give me a slight smile. When I got out my phone to look at some of my pictures I listened with my eyes and heard her interest. I took a chance. I stretched out my arms holding my phone as if to take a picture and she smiled so big. I took a “selfie” with this lady and we were able to make a connection.
My job is to listen. It’s an art, really. So few people in this life truly listen to others. So many of us listen to respond instead of listening to understand. I had a client tell me recently in session that he comes to therapy because I listen to him. In truly listening to others we validate them and they come to know how unique and special they are.
Along with listening, come questions. I have noticed by listening to my clients that many of them say, “Ya know, you asked me a question in the last session that made me think…”. Questions are simple but powerful. It helps us come to know others. It helps others come to a deeper understanding of themselves. If we don’t ask we, nor they, learn.
I had a colleague that told me about a client she had that kept squirming in her seat during the session. Instead of assuming she was anxious or disinterested in the conversation, my colleague asked her why she was squirming. The client perked up and said, “Why, I have a squirrel in my bra!” She proceeded to take out the squirrel and show my colleague her friend.
If my colleague had not asked, and just assumed, that session would likely have been unproductive. Instead, they had a good laugh together and made a connection.