We have a 14 year old Tibetan Parakeet we adopted a couple of years ago. He came to us injured and couldnt go back to the home he had been living in. His wing was broken and after his wing healed he needed to regain muscle strength to fly again. We were going to find him a different home but instead we decided he could stay with us.
He has his cage and the gate remains unlocked and he enjoys coming out and going back in as he pleases. Although he is not learning any new words that we know of, he has a few phrases he uses with us.
One of them is “Can you hear me?”
He keeps asking the question as long as we are in the room and until we respond.
So he gets the response, “Yes Dewey, I can hear you” or some variation of that. He is usually satisfied with that and starts doing other things. We go through this interaction everyday. He prefers a certain tone of voice and his name in the response. Anything different and we are back to his question.
Listening to someone is a gift to them and if we truly hear them, it is also a gift to ourselves.
Deep listening builds connection and understanding
Listening and being heard can be transformative
Fran Peavey, in her book Heart Politics talks about an experience she had at Stanford University. She was walking on the campus one day when she came up to a group of people carrying recording equipment. They were recording a male chimp who was loose and a female chimp on a long chain. The scientists and spectators (mostly men) were trying to get them to mate. Every time the male chimpanzee approached the female chimp, she whimpered and backed away, to avoid his advances. Peavey says as she watched this scene, a wave of empathy swept through her. In the next moment, the female chimp, yanked her chain out of the male chimps grasp and walked through the crowd of people standing directly to Peavey, and took her hand. Then she proceeded to take Peavey back into the circle towards the only two other women there and joined hands with 1 of them. The 3 of them then stood together in the circle. Peavey says the chimp had formed her own support group.
This story affirms how we instinctively seek support, look for cues of safety and have the deep need to be seen, heard and recognized. Paying deep and focused attention to others allows us to be attuned to their experiences, creating space for the person to feel seen and heard. As Peavey stood there, feeling empathy for the chimpanzee, the chimpanzee sensed this support and found her safe space.
Listening deeply to others requires stepping out of our own constant inner dialogue. When we listen and attune our inner selves to the other person we also reduce the gap of separation of “us” and “them”.
“One of the deepest longings of the human soul is to be seen” ~John Donohue