Listening to Others and Being Heard Ourselves

Photo by Alex Green on

Well January is not quite finished but it feels 2021 is going to be even more challenging than 2020.

We are all so tired! We are tired of restrictions, tired of mixed messages, tired of bad news, tired of having our hopes for a brighter future dashed.

The other week I was talking to a young apprentice, as he was relaying his story to me I started to feel hopeful. He told me a story of extraordinary maturity, and selflessness, and kindness and determination, tinged with sadness and anxiousness. I will admit I had a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye. On the face of it his story seemed extraordinary, but in reality it wasn’t. I am sure if we bothered to listen to all the young people around us we would hear similar stories, and not just from people working in healthcare. I was hopeful because his story is a common story, it means our future is in safe hands the people charged with all our futures (the young) are wonderful, the people delivering our care, providing transport, delivering our goods, and those working in our shops are all incredible. Collectively we are amazing.

What was distressing about this young man’s story was that he felt isolated and ignored, his elders were not hearing and understanding his concerns and uncertainty. He was beginning to feel disillusioned. He felt unloved, and that if I am honest that broke my heart. This young man is not quite an adult, he like the vast majority of his generation and to be honest most of the rest of us (including those that are not hearing him) are doing their best. It made me wonder how many of us are feeling like this. After speaking to a variety of people across the hospital, my feeling is that everyone is so busy trying to do the best they can in such a busy, uncertain world, that our bandwidth has dramatically reduced. As a result of that we have less time for people around us especially colleagues and loved ones. I am seeing this especially acutely amongst leaders who are finding it increasingly challenging to provide their staff with that listening ear. They are reporting they have nothing else to give, their buckets of compassion are running empty.

I spent an hour yesterday listening to two wonderful colleagues that felt just like that. They had nothing else to give. Both of them would never normally seek support in this way, but something told them that they needed to see what was out there for them to continue to be the compassionate leaders they were. So they joined me on a call having never met each other before, after an hour thy both felt restored. They had shared stories, and heard each other’s concerns, and challenges. Despite them doing very different jobs they were surprised how much they had in common. They both noted that hearing other people talk about worries they shared with them was really helpful. The biggest impact on them was being heard. No solutions were offered, no advice was shared, all he did was listen and understand each other.

Going back to the young apprentice, when we were talking I never offered any advice, I never suggested a course of action, all I did was listen to him, and asked questions to understand what was happening to him. In the end I validated his experience, by sharing my view of the world at the moment. It is not a controversial view, far from it. I suggested that we are all experiencing the most challenging time any of us have ever experienced, and I invited him to appreciate how he is performing during this time, and how everyone is performing, after all no one has ever experienced anything like this. By hearing him and helping him provide context to his experience, I could hear him shift in his mood.

We all need to be heard, we need to feel appreciated and understood, it connects us to our community. We are the most social species, not sharing experiences and learning from each other is detrimental for our health. Make time for each other in your circles, at home and at work. Listen to each other, listen to understand their experience, and find people that will do the same for you. If you lead people make sure you have time a space to be heard, to talk through what is happening to you, to help you make sense. Employing a coach or using someone in your organisation with coaching skills is vital to maintain your leadership skills and ultimately attend to your teams effectively so they feel heard.

If you are interested in being coached or want to learn more about understanding the listening skills that underpin coaching, for you to use with your teams get in touch via email and we can arrange a solution that meets your needs.


Published by Matt Smith Personal and Professional Coach

Performance and Life Coach

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