Listen, It’s More Than Just Shutting Up

Every once in a while I think we all take the time to be still for a moment and just listen…It can be in the midst of a hectic day at work or a lull in a Saturday afternoon. Right now I’m being still at home. The furnace just kicked on, I can hear the hum of the dryer as it tosses the towels about. I can also hear the twitter (how we used to use the word) of the birds outside that came back way too early this year. And the tick of the clock hanging on the wall above me. So there are lots of noises going on besides the constant noise in my head (and I’m not referring to the chronic tinnitus I’ve developed from ear infections either). 

But do we listen to each other? One of the skills I’ve developed as a nurse is the ability to listen to patients and families. Sometimes people just need to talk without interruption. Listening with intention is a skill. It’s becoming invested in what someone is saying, having empathy, being moved to respond meaningfully. Sometimes when we talk, we don’t want solutions or answers, we just need to be heard. It means we have truly connected with another human being, having communicated our thoughts and feelings.

At times it is ok to just be in the silence together. The unsaid is just as meaningful/powerful as what is given over to words. The old cliché of “reading between the lines” is an apt description of the power of the nonverbal. Listen  to the silence. What hasn’t been said? What might it mean? Perhaps we should just ponder it…in silence.


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