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What Does Being Heard Really Mean?

Have you ever shared a concern, a worry or a story and been left feeling even more misunderstood, confused and, or frustrated than before you spoke?

Perhaps you didn't feel you had been properly heard? Imagine you finally summon the courage to share your story and it is not received or heard the way you had hoped. No worry or story is too big or too small to share in a counselling session.

As the author Maya Angelou pointed out;"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you." http:/brightdrops.com/maya-angelou-quotes

The importance of having someone bear witness to your story is of indisputable value if you are experiencing distress, conflict, confusion, or despair. However the very act of being heard is dependent on the person listening to you. Most people are not skilled or trained in active listening.

There are times in our lives where being truly heard can make all the difference.

However there is a big difference between hearing and listening.

Hearing is the act of of perceiving sound through the ear. Listening is a choice. As someone said "hearing is through the ears, listening is through the mind";https://keydifferences.com/difference between-hearing-and-listening.html

Sometimes telling our story to loved ones or good friends, while enormously helpful at times, can further complicate and already complicated situation.

People often want to help, to fix things to take away your hurt. Their intentions are usually genuine and compassionate. However their responses are often delivered with well-intentioned advice or platitudes than can unintentionally exacerbate already existing distress. When a response starts with "at least...." or, you are met with a response that is about the other persons experience of the situation you are talking about you may feel like you have not been heard.

I have observed that in the world of cyberspace and social media people often use the platform to express their thoughts, opinions or even to share their grief or struggles.While  they may be reaching out for support that otherwise may not be there for them, it runs the risk of inviting all sorts of responses which are usually the opposite of active listening. People may respond with their own experiences, attitudes or belief systems and at times will serve up a generous lashing of judgment and criticism. This leaves me wondering if people might end up feeling less supported, less validated and isolated especially if what they expressed was met with a barrage of well intentioned comments such as "it was meant to be..." or, ill intentioned comments such as "toughen up".

This too can happen in our lounge rooms, cafes and bars with friends or loved ones when we share an important story with them. Particularly now when attention is often shared with phones where they are intermittently checking notifications, updates and incoming messages.

But is it really fair to expect loved ones to respond as trained professionals?

I don't think it is.

Counsellors and Psychotherapists are specifically trained to truly listen, to suspend all judgment, to stay present and withhold advice. We can explore options and ways forward when you are ready and if they feel right for you, but that is, only after listening very carefully to your story.

The following quote by (Stephen, R Covey.) sums it up beautifully;"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen  with the intent to reply".

Ginette Lenham (C) 2018


I have moved my counselling practice to a new location which is located within a vibrant and integrated Health Centre in the heart of the city. All details are now on the contact page of my website. For regular news and updates please feel welcome to subscribe to my blog also located on the website.

I hope you all stay warm and snuggly during his cold snap.


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