I discovered, not for the first time, that listening to somebody can benefit you as much as them (depending on what they’re talking about of course) . Yesterday I was teetering on the edge of tears, and I had the sense to ask the person next to me how things were with them. All of a sudden, I was lifted out of my self-pity, straight into their struggles. Selfishly, I welcomed the distraction for a while until I became fully engaged in their account of themselves. I walked home with them on my mind, not myself, thinking: this is the way it should be.
Listening is becoming an increasing challenge these days – with our phone permanently in our hands and demanding our primary attention, with the noise of the media, our minute-by minute need to check all is right with the world and the big names that inhabit it. I didn’t have mine with me yesterday, and so the only distraction was having to glance at the school door to check for my daughter. I listened like someone with their hands stretched out for a life-line. I held on to the details shared with desperation, so grateful for being rescued from myself.
We are always being told to talk, but rarely, unless we are in school, are we instructed to listen. Traditionally, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ but what if your problem cannot be magicked away that easily? What if, this time, someone needs to talk to you?
If you have the eyes to see that, drop everything, including your own pre-occupations, and make them the centre of your world for that precious, short time. And I promise you, it will help you as much as them.