First, you listen.
There is nothing more important than listening. People are trying to tell you what they know, what they feel, what they need, but to understand what they are telling you, you have to listen.
It’s easy to want to shortcut the listening part. Listening, really listening is hard. It takes time and it takes effort, because to do it well you have understand what the meaning is behind the message. People use all sorts of cues and symbols to convey their meaning and what you think they mean isn’t the point.
Listening demands moving beyond your fears and expectations to really be present for another person. If all you can offer is what you carry with you in your life rather than engaging their needs, their fears, their desires, where they are, then you demand that they come into your world rather than entering theirs.
Next, you mirror.
Just listening is never enough. Nobody will listen to you until they believe that you have heard them. Echoing back what you hear with empathy and understanding sets the basis for deeper communication.
It is best if you can bring in your wider understanding of their position, taking what you have heard in the past from them and adding it to what they share today. The richer and more detailed you can be in mirroring their world, the more they know you are committed to understanding and caring for them as an individual.
The best kind of comment is always when you reflect two (or more) different things that they say to you and show the dissonance between them. When people see the gaps and twists in their thinking reflected not in the judgment of another person but rather in their own words, they have to take notice.
By reflecting what they share, you help them understand, organize and own their own story, revealing the threads, priorities and challenges that shape their choices and define their lives. You help them rewrite their life.
Then you encourage.
Affirming where people are doing well, creating successes, and making progress is at the heart of long lasting change. Expanding the good is always more effective than fighting the bad. You can’t chase out darkness, but you can widen the light.
Everyone needs encouragement, needs the courage to move past their habits & blocks and embrace new ways of being in the world. Change is hard.
You can never go amiss telling people where they are brilliant, gorgeous or compelling. Never.
After encouragement comes laughter.
Laughter is always good, of course, being the only real social lubricant, but it is especially important at this stage. After they feel heard, reflected and encouraged, the hard work starts. Getting loose for this part helps everyone,
Laughter helps the knife slip in more easily, the blade that cuts between rationalization and truth, between strength and ego.
Those moments with the scalpel have to be fleeting. If there is resistance, you have to pull back immediately. Creating defensive reactions serves no one, instead just toughening the armour.
By being sure that people know you are engaged, caring, listening, aware of their tender spots, you can also be sure that people will respect the tiny cuts you make. They will go off and consider them, go and look at their own worldview, seeing if the cuts you suggested really make sense.
It is only when they decide to let go of something that isn’t serving them that they will release it. You battering them more about it does not help them find a new balance.
People heal in their own way and in their own time. This includes you. You can never fix or heal someone else, instead you can only listen, reflect, engage, illuminate, and reveal. After that, it is up to other people to do their own work on their own schedule, taking their own sweet time to come out from behind defences and become more open hearted.
Supporting the pain of acknowledgement, of finding the wisdom, power and serenity that are required to engage transformation a key part of the gifts we give to others, of the gift we give to ourselves. Doing the work of letting go and becoming new is fuck all hard so being tender and kind while that work is happening is the best way to keep things moving forward.
It is hard to see where we need change even while it is often easy for us to see where others need change. That is why it is so important for us to listen to our advice to others, using it to reveal ourselves, too.
Trying too hard to change others, slashing too deeply, pushing too hard, getting too frustrated is a sign that we need healing. We externalize our own feelings, working to ease our own pain by demanding others “fix” the things that irritate us. When we can’t be with our own feelings, can’t bear with our own hurt, we try to demand that others impose the same strategies we use on their life, trying to silence them rather than being with them.
Pain is always a sign that healing is required, so our irritation is always about us and our feelings and not about the target we act out towards. Demanding that others change, altering the world to make us more comfortable and less required to engage our own heartache, the hurt we have swallowed, never works and usually just causes more pain.
First you listen, yes, but not just to the other person. You need to be able to listen to your own heart, need to be able to see yourself in the mirror.
The only person you have responsibility for healing in the world is you. The best you can do for others is to present for them, supporting their healing in the way you would want them to support yours. You need to make them feel seen, valued, and encouraged in the way that you need to be cared for.
The way to keep the gift is to give it away. What goes around comes around. If you want to get better everyday, the way is clear.
First, you listen.