Step 1: Creating safety through compassionate listening

I realized today that I had never made room in my day-to-day life for true compassion. Now don’t get me wrong… I’m not a horribly mean person, refusing to think about the needs of others. But I am not really “compassionate” in the way that one should truly be. In philosophical terms, what was missing was autenticity. Which brings me to today’s Moment of Reflection:

What Happens When You Offer Your Child or Any Member of Your Family Compassionate Listening?

To be a compassionate listener – to listen to another human being with an aim of engaging in dialogue with someone in an environment of safety and security – requires that 4 key components are present:

  1. Listen intently
  2. Listen without judgement
  3. Refrain from interrupting
  4. Refrain from comparing

What I realized was that these 4 elements were much more easily present when speaking with other adults. But, no matter how “compassionate” I thought I was being, many of the 4 elements listed here magically disappeared when I was speaking with children. The real insight came when I began to reflect on which ones went missing.

Listening intently? Of course! I am always listening intently when my children ask to speak to me. I mean, I can hear the majority of what they are saying while I work through my mental lists (groceries, work duties, household chores etc.) and organizing our next family activitiees (dance class, music class, karate class, homework etc.). Phew, got that covered!

Listening without judgment? Done and done! I am always listening without judgment when my children speak to me. Especially when they have done something that I consider unacceptable and filter their dialogue through the much-needed, pre-programmed list of questions, comparing and contrasting their responses with those that I know they must say in order to prove that they did what they did. Sweet! Another one down.

Refrain from interrupting? What? Do children make full sentences? Sometimes these conversations can take sooooo long, And we have things to do… remember the list we are working with under “Listen Intently”? Next!

Refrain from comparing? Well, when I was young I don’t remember my parents really giving me loads of time to think through my answers to their questions. I knew what I did. And when I didn’t know what I did, I knew what they thought I did and I knew that it was always in my best interest to simply tell them what they wanted to hear. FAST!

So… compassionate listening, eh? Well… maybe it’s not been so compassionate afterall.

And as I fell into the depth of “Oh my God! I’ve broken my children!!” I remembered a very important fact: Every moment provides me with an opportunity to choose differently.

And I did. But in order to do that, I had to slow everything down. Becuase what was posing as my biggest obstacle to compassionate listening was the eternal rush. Rushing the children to speak faster becauase I was rushing to get us to get out and have a fun family time becuase I was rushing to get us to extracurricular activities becuase I was rushing to get to bed in time for the morning rush for school. So I had to speak back to the eternal rush. And  I had to actually find a way to be present and in the moment without feeling like I needed to be anywhere else but here.

So today, I have made one request from the universe: to support me as I slow everything down and begin to be right here, right now with my children so I can listen with compassion and give myself the space to remind myself (and check and double check myself) as I ensure that each of the 4 steps of compassionate listening are preseest in my conversations with my children.

With love, light, and healing,

Laura Mae.

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