Are you really listening to me?

Apparently in 5 years’ time, the skills we need to thrive will have significantly changed. You can read the article I’m talking about here

What struck me most about the lists they present is that by 2020 apparently needing to employ the skills of ‘active listening’ will have dropped from the top priority list. I think this is an absolute tragedy. Active listening is the process of being really involved and invested what another person is saying. It’s the first thing taught on counselling and psychotherapeutic training. It’s the skill, I think everyone should be taught before they leave school. That it’s dropping off the list seems to me to be counter intuitive. If we can’t listen to people, I mean really listen and hear what they are say and indicate to them that we’ve heard it then I think society will be the poorer for it.

There is something amazing that happens in a Clinical Psychology consulting room but it is not magic. I don’t wave a wand around the Headspace office and just make everything better. What I do is listen. Carefully and thoughtfully. I ask people to tell me what life is like for them and I listen. It’s only from listening very carefully that I can formulate an idea of what might be helpful. And even then more listening is required. I may be an expert in anxiety or chronic fatigue but only the person sitting opposite me is an expert in themselves. An expert by experience. It is the coming together of these two things and a lot of listening in between which gives the work it’s direction, and more often than not, its’ positive outcome.

So in an age of increasing technology let’s be critical thinkers and problem solvers and be creative. But let’s not drop the skill of active listening. To lose this skill is to lose our connection with others and a part of our humanity. Which puts me in mind of this poem, which I love.

Are you really listening to me?

When I ask you to listen

And you start giving advice

You have not done what I asked

When I ask you to listen to me

And you begin to tell me why

I shouldn’t feel that way

You are trampling on MY feelings

When I ask you to listen to me

And you feel you have to do something to solve my problem

You have failed me

Strange as that may seem


All I ask is that you listen

Not talk or do – just HEAR ME

Advice is cheap

Twenty-five pence will get you an agony aunt in the local paper

And I can DO for my self

I am not helpless

Maybe discouraged and faltering

but not helpless

When you do something for me that I can and need to do for myself

You contribute to my fear and inadequacy

But when you accept as a simple fact that I do feel what I feel

No matter how irrational

Then I quit trying to convince you and can get about the business of understanding what is behind the irrational feeling

And what that’s clear

The answers are obvious and I don’t need advice

Irrational feelings make sense when we understand what’s behind them

So please, listen and just hear me

And if you want to talk,

Wait a minute for your turn and I’ll listen to you

Ralph Raughston

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