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Listening with bare feet

We need to listen more and better. This is a fact. I am intrigued by the phrase I frequently hear from the clients: "the problem with us is the lack of communication". Perhaps there is a misunderstanding of what is meant by communication. In this context, I like to think that listening is the core. I keep thinking about how we have listened to the other seeking coherence, rather than connection. How does a conversation happen? I tend to think it is through connection. Without it, would it be possible to co-construct meanings for what is said?

We are surrounded by a deaf listening, by a listening without silences, without breaths, without time for the encounter between what was said and what was heard. Every day we normalize the audio accelerator more, building an illusion that we are being productive. To produce is to accelerate, it is synonymous with not wasting time. What have we chosen to listen to? And in what way?

We are in such a hurry that, without realizing it, we put words into the conversation. We want to imprint our experience on the other person's life. We listen already thinking about what we will answer. We listen in order to conclude, to agree or disagree. We do not listen to connect. How can we listen more without putting concepts into the other person's story? It is necessary to lower the volume of the interpretative and critical voice and increase the listening that connects, the one that invites to a real dialog.

The polyphony of voices that inhabits us should serve more actively for our listening. What is the point of knowing about their existence if we do not organize ourselves internally, do not make room for the invitation they make to us? Listening to my inner voices does not distance me from the other. On the contrary. It can connect me even more.

I think of the therapeutic context, where the space of conversations multiplies, pluralizes. Each person is a world. How do we select our listening? How do we give the necessary time for the connection to happen?

What is lost when we do not dedicate time or want it to go too fast? What happens when our desire to respond leads us to our own dictionary, to our only references?

The therapeutic encounter will always be a new experience. It is in the retelling and reliving of that moment that we can build something new. But without listening, nothing can be retold.

The path of listening is slow. There is no listening without us dedicating my time to the other. It is listening without haste. Do not speed up the voice of the other. Calm your ears. I really like when Kaethe Weingarten quotes in her text "The Art of Reflection: Turning the Strange into the Familiar" (2016) a poem that brings me a beautiful metaphor:

“We are trying to create a situation in which the client feels listened to, understood, cared about, cared for, and validated. We want the client to feel that something that has been split off or fragmented returns to them. We hope that a new feeling will arise, a feeling of relief, of “ah, I’m at home.” In a poem by Fox (1995), I find this notion echoed. In the last stanza, he writes:

When someone deeply listens to you

your bare feet are on the earth

and a beloved land that seemed distant

is now at home within you”.

*Weingarten, K. Family Process, Vol. 55, No. 2, 2016

doi: 10.1111/famp.12158

image: IStock

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