The Art of Listening

“Listening is an art that requires attention over self, over ego.”

-Dean Jackson

As someone diagnosed with clinical depression, a movement that has been very critical in shaping up my confidence is the #IDONTMIND movement started a couple of years back.

The #IDONTMIND movement encourages people dealing with a mental illness to speak up. With that, equally important is someone listening on the other end.

The importance of listening, both by people having a mental illness and by those trying to help, can never be over-emphasised.

All too often, listening is confused with hearing. The difference is that hearing is simply letting sound pass through your ears. It could be someone talking, water running or the sound of strong winds.

In any and all cases, the sounds pass through us without making much of an impact. Because of the lack of impact, responses, if any, are largely robotic.

It’s like when we were young and our parents would tell us to clean our room, finish our homework or anything else that seemed like a chore. We would hear them and even respond affirmatively but largely as a reflex just so that particular sound of nagging would stop.

When you listen, you not only hear, but you imbibe the sound in your mind.

In the case of communication, especially with someone with a mental illness, it is important to let the person know that you’re listening.

By the same token, it’s also important on our side to let the person who may be trying to help us know that we’re listening to their advice, regardless of whether we apply it or not.

When I first started therapy for depression, my counselor would listen to me which was a stark contrast to most of my friends and family who heard me but didn’t understand.

But I didn’t reciprocate the gesture. When my counselor gave me advice, I heard it but didn’t listen enough to imbibe what he was saying. Perhaps out of habit, I mistakenly put him in the catagory of everyone else.

This slowed down any progress on my end considerably. It was only when I understood that his advice stemmed from genuinely wanting to help me that I started feeling better.

I allude to the example of mental health communication because it seems the most relevant these days, particularly for this website.

But of course, the art of listening should never be limited to any specific area. It’s essential in all walks of life.

Do you feel like you’re a good listener? Do you feel people you communicate with on a daily basis listen to you? Share your thoughts by commenting below.

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