The importance of listening & being heard

There’s been plenty of time when I’ve shared my thoughts and looked up only to be met by a blank gaze.

Sure, the person might have been staring at me, but they weren’t really listening.

I was expecting some visual confirmation.

A nod.

A smile.

Anything really.

Some acknowledgement that I had just shared something.

 

The glass half full side of things?

I got to let something off my chest.

 

But was I heard?

Who knows.

Maybe I was

Maybe I wasn’t.

Couldn’t really tell.

 

Did I feel heard?

Definitely not.

 

You’ve probably been there.

Shared an important detail of your day, or something that you’d like some feedback on.

Only to get a lukewarm response.

Or no real response at all.

 

Sometimes, it’s not big deal.

I can shake off the wondering if I am not worth listening to.

Or ignore the question that bubbles up in my mind about what could have been so important that the person totally ignored me.

But other times, that ignoring hits hard.

 

Not being listened to can often make us feel invisible.

 

And even when I know I are not invisible, and that I do indeed matter, it can make self doubt creep in.

This issue – the lack of deep listening — has been well documented as a pressing issue in maternal health care.

 

I recently read a short piece about the importance of listening to women in the Mexican context, where I live.

The authors discussed how the key act of listening may be a significant piece of the puzzle in treating postpartum depression.

And there is a flourishing body of work on how not being listened to during labor is correlated with negative health outcomes, for mom and baby.

That body of work is often called obstetric violence here in Latin America, birth trauma in the North, but overall – it’s been understudied and little understood.

 

If you asked any individual health care provider if they intended to listen to their patients, I’m sure they would nod their head in agreement.

 

The challenge is that these problems exist on a systems level.

Some providers aren’t well trained in active listening.

Some don’t have the time to in their super short visits.

And worst of all, listening is not valued as a skill in many health care professions.

 

But we know if makes a difference. We sense it when someone creates the space for us to share

 

We feel it when someone acknowledges our words and experiences.

We know on a gut level when we feel heard.

And when that happens, we feel respected.

We feel worthy.

We feel deserving.

 

So, my invitation to you today is to think of 1 person in your life who really knows how to listen.

 

That person who, when you look up, gives that reassuring nod.

The knowing smile.

The visual confirmation that you are expecting.

Just 1 person like this can make a difference.

 

They can remind us that we are indeed worthy of being listened to and cared for.

 

You are worthy

You are deserving

What you think, feel, and have to say matters

Today, reach out to someone who knows it.

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