Moving into Deeper Intimacy: Supportive Listening and Reflective Statements

I’ve been aware for the past few days about the way I listen to others when they are sharing their feelings, ideas and experiences with me and vise versa.

I’ve felt a natural effect within, to recall aspects and experiences from my own life that relate to the person’s story, or to bring up my own feelings about it, and then want to share it.  This is a natural and necessary reaction because this is a large part of how we relate to others and create an understanding of others, ourselves and the world around us and our place within it all.  We also have the ability to develop a conscious choice based response to not react out of conditioning or habit to indulge in ourselves without meaning to.  In this post I’m talking about indulging less often in our own story when others are telling us about theirs.

In the book, ‘Conscious Communication’ by Miles Sherts, he encourages ‘Supportive Listening’ which is not simply staying quiet when someone talks, it is also acknowledging or showing the other person that we have heard them and understood what they have shared with ‘Reflective Statements’.  I am interested in becoming aware of when our own stories get in the way of connection, and intimacy with others and how to move more easily towards a mutual space of expression with the skill of supportive listening through active reflection.

Here are two different responses:  One that holds a safe space for the person who initially expressed themself, and one where the listener indulges in their own story that stops part of the evolution of a listening and supportive space.

1)

John – “I’m excited, because you know how I’ve been wanting to work with animals in a different way for a while? I’ve decided to take a position at the local Zoo as Zoo keeper!”

Jane – “Wow.  That’s really hard work and potentially dangerous.  Do you have to get certain vaccinations?  Are you sure you want to do that?

So now there are potentially two conversations going on unless they choose to focus on one. Jane could hold space for John who is making a change in his life, wanted to share that he made a decision and is moving forward, is expressing his love for animals and a new potential job.  Or, John could hold space for Jane who is concerned about the work environment and the well being of John and her possible fear of certain animals.

The conversation started with John sharing his story with Jane.  If Jane isn’t able to drop her position on her story in response to Johns, then the conversation changes to what is energetically most strong or pressing.  I do understand that even though we may have wanted or needed someone to hold space for us for the conversation we started, but sometimes it takes a different spin, (for reasons we may not consciously understand) that it needed to turn around to them and their story.  I acknowledge there are instances that require us to accept what is needing to happen that may be in a more dharmic flow for both persons.  I’m just using this particular example to show how easy it is to add in your story.  Anyway…

This is what supportive listening and holding space for John might sound like without turning the focus onto Jane and her story.

2)

John – “I’m excited, because you know how I’ve been wanting to work with animals in a different way for a while? I’ve decided to take a position at the local Zoo as Zoo keeper!”

Jane – “Wow.  It sounds like you are really looking forward to this new change in your life.  What are you most excited about?

This way, John is able to share his feelings and thoughts for a moment and know they have been heard.  That alone is a very intimate exchange for both of them. It is this kind of intimacy I want to support more often and have supported for me and witness more often in general.

Being heard, or seen, is so valuable.  It is at the heart of life.  This reflects the idea of life itself being a mirror onto itself to see itself.  That we are mirrors to each other so we may see ourselves to know ourselves and to know that we exist which is part of the Divine lila – play of life.  In some yogic perspectives this is the meaning of life and why the Universe became dual within it’s whole.

I’ll paraphrase a good friend of mine Scott Petrie, who lead a discussion on this very topic over a year ago.  I loved his metaphor to highlight the value in being heard, seen or acknowledged.

Imagine you are walking through a beautiful forest.  There are trees, birds, squirrels and foliage all around.  You are walking through and step on a stick but it does not make a loud crack or any sound at all.  You walk in front of a squirrel but it does not notice or run.  You are singing loudly but the bird just above you on it’s perch does not hear your or fly away.  Imagine what that would feel like, to walk through a forest and have nothing respond to your presence there.  I’m going off on a slight tangent, but I feel it helps to support this topic of being seen and heard.

Even in nature we are getting feedback that we exist and are heard.  If we don’t have this feedback within our relationships, we are fundamentally malnourished.  I’m hoping to help support the absorption of this nourishment more easily within the conversations I have with others and also to help educate others in working with this. It can be challenging and emotional and fascinating and fun.

Intimacy is where we are ever moving deeper into.

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Make your transitions an adventure

With hindsight, I’ve begun to notice that I often make transitory periods harder than they need to be.  Something always pops up and begins to ease me, (and you) into a new path.  That’s just the way it is.  So, with that in mind, enjoy the unknown; and what a statement that is!  How might I enjoy the unknown?  … with a sense of curiosity and Adventure in my step.

It’s funny that adventure has been showing itself right in front of me for a while, but just now am I taking adventure as a lesson to re-learn into my own life.

My cats (my munchkins) are continuously becoming more confident and happy to explore and adjust to what is unknown, and new territory.  Often, when I see my munchkins emerge from the bedroom and want to not only approach new people, but be pet by them, or when they respond to loud noises without running to hide under the bed and instead, sit a little longer on the couch to check things out, or when they move towards the front door in curiosity instead of bolt for the … bedroom when there is rustling on the other side, I often say to them, “Are you investigating?  Are you going on an adventure?”

Yes, they are investigating and going on an adventure!  I love that they do and I’m so proud of them.  I think I shall follow their lead.

xo