I believe in the power of listening. Only when we take the time to open up to someone else, can we cope with our emotions. Every single person needs someone to understand them. So we choose our most trusted friends, family, or anyone else who will hear what we have to say. It is necessary to have someone there to share the burden of emotions, to help you through and tell you that tomorrow will be a better day. But to do this for someone, we must listen. True listening is when you understand the emotions behind the story, when you are so moved by what the person is feeling you feel their passion.
When I was 16 years old, my best friend Sam and I sat on the wet grass of the school soccer field, watching her dog chase the stuffed squirrel he loved so much. As we sat there, she became sullen and a little angry. Sam told me of how one of her best friends didn’t show up when they were supposed to go to the movies together. Instead, her friend decided to hang out with her boyfriend, who lately had taken up almost all her time. Sam had known her since kindergarten and they used to do everything together. Sam was furious that her friend had allowed a boyfriend to take over her life and leave little time for her family or anyone else. She vented for a few minutes, tearing up the grass and piling it into mushy heaps.
Then Sam was quiet, staring off into the distance as her dog came back for another round with the squirrel. I placed my hand on her shoulder and pulled her into a hug. “I’m just so worried about her,” Sam said, “this isn’t normal for a first boyfriend”. Underneath all the anger Sam felt towards her friend, she realized she was concerned about the future. If her friend alienated everyone who used to be important to her, what would happen if they break up? Who would she turn to then? “But you love her and will always be there for her,” I said, “no matter what”. After a moment, Sam smiled at me and said, “Thanks”. Although I had said almost nothing, Sam felt better just by having someone to talk to, someone to share the anger and hurt she was feeling because a best friend traded her in for a new boyfriend. By simply listening, I relieved Sam of some of the anger she felt toward her friend, and helped her realize that she was really just worried about someone she cared for very much.
In the end, I have realized that you are no longer are separated by an emotional barrier. Just as the listener chooses to respect the emotions of the speaker, the speaker is grateful to the listener who took the time and effort to listen to them without passing judgment. As a result, there is a new relationship of warmth between the two individuals, based on trust and understanding. The happiness or sadness is divided between both participants. The pair have been unified so that the emotional burden is no longer too heavy for a single person to carry. Through the simple act of listening, a bond has been formed, and no longer are we alone.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.