The Art of Deep Listening
Small talk is fine, I can do it and at times I even enjoy those little encounters with other people. But what I really love are conversations that go deeper than that. It’s there that I really meet other people, where I see them for who they are, that’s when we can communicate about our personal thoughts and feelings, support one another and give each other new input and ideas. That’s what makes conversing with others worthwhile for me.
When I was in my early twenties I started noticing that people would open up to me, become very real with me, tell me things that are extremely personal. I have to admit that I didn’t delight in this fact back then as I felt a bit like their garbage truck and I didn’t like that feeling. It took me a while to see things differently. I started to understand that they were able to be that open with me as I was able to make them feel safe and unthreatened, in part by not being judgemental but caring and genuinely interested in them and their story. It’s also that I have the ability to “feel” my way around in a conversation so I walk around people’s booby traps without triggering them. I remember a conversation with a friend I used to work with we had years ago. She had lost her father due to cancer when she was only a young teenager. As we talked I could see how much that influenced and changed her, how it made it hard for her to have faith in things turning out well and made her bitter in some respect. After the talk she was as surprised as I was that she had been able to be that honest and open about things instead of shutting down as we approached that topic. It was her who gave me that picture of me walking around her booby traps.
Since then there have been many other instances such as this, and it doesn’t take me by surprise so much anymore when people who tend to be reclusive or the ones who seem overly confident “all of a sudden” become that real with me. And I don’t don’t’ like it anymore. In fact each time I have such a conversation I feel truly blessed. Blessed with a gift that has been bestowed upon me to have these kinds of conversations and blessed to be on holy ground with another human being. Yes, holy ground. That’s what it feels like to me when I am allowed to truly see the person I am with, to see who they are and sometimes why they are the way they are and how wonderful and special and mind-blowingly beautiful they are on the inside. To be let into such personal space of another human being is still a miracle to me I’ll always treasure. And I am really glad that I too have learned to let some people in like that myself. Again, when two people meet like that, to me it’s holy ground.