Has listening to the global news left you feeling saturated and helpless?
Toilet Paper Vanishing
Stock Market Crashing
Airlines Banning Flights
The virus panic has so many of us feeling like we can’t bear one more ounce of anxiety, fear or stress. It is difficult to manage our own emotions. And for many of us, we need to create space for our children and spouses to share their feelings as well.
No surprise we feel like we can’t breathe.
I have three simple actions for managing stress and anxiety as you listen to those you love share their worries and concerns. We all have people in our lives that need support during times of stress and uncertainty . Each one of us needs the gift of listening as well. As we go through a season of social distancing and canceled activities, now is a great time to learn how to listen supportively.
If you follow me, you know that I am a Marriage and Family Therapist grad student. My story is found here. I value the time you give me on Instagram and time spent reading my blog. It is so important to me that I offer valuable content that has the potential to help you understand relationship issues and then take action steps to bring change in your life.
Here are 3 simple ways to be a better listener:
1. Practice silence. Duh! Of course we need to be silent when we are listening. But the reality is so many of us are lazy listeners, preparing our response for when it is our turn to speak. We fail to listen with intentional silence. We practice this weekly in my grad classes, and this is how is looks:
Person is done speaking, and you sit in silence. Yup. Total quiet. No response for at least three seconds. Count silently in your head if you need to, it does help to slow you down. This is helpful for the talker to finalize thoughts and the intentional silence is critical for the listener to really absorb the things that are being shared.
2. Listening face. Find a facial pose that is neutral and friendly. It’s true, some of us have to work on bitch resting face. I tend to furrow my brow and look concerned when I am actively listening ( I am working on making adjustments!) Facial expressions can make an anxious person feel safe if you are relaxed and open in your features. Do your best to be relaxed and not reactive in your face. As therapy grad students we practice this at home in the mirror. Really, we do.
3.Choose a generic and careful short response. Things like: mmm, okay or I am with you. There is a whole science behind the short, singular word response in therapy. Choosing the right word(s) for different situations is an interesting study, but for our purposes, let’s pick something simple and attentive. Words like “wow” can be alarming to the other person, and something like “interesting” might make them feel like a specimen. I really like the phrase – I am with you.
I wish I could take all my listening education and infuse each one of us as we walk through these challenging days. I know that each one of us is carrying fear and anxiety as the uncertainty grows over the pandemic.
The act of listening is free and can be done in person, or over the phone. If social distancing is required, use FaceTime or some type of video chat. Be mindful of facial expression as you listen via video. Sometimes our concentration face can look angry or frustrated without us being aware of it.
I believe that the more time we spend listening, the greater the flow of peace in our home, our communities and our lives. As I often do, here is a book recommendation for a deeper dive into learning listening skills.
This is one in a series of posts written to help us navigate the anxiety and fear surrounding the Coronavirus global pandemic.
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