I am walking on the coast. A lady behind me shouts ahead to her grandchildren and then apologises for shouting in my ear and being over-attentive. The conversation went like this:
I responded with a smile and said: ‘No worries I’d love my mum to still be here being over-attentive.’
She said: ‘Oh you have lost someone. My husband died 20 months ago.’
This is the moment … when you have a chance to make a real difference to someone.
I said: ‘Oh, only 20 months.’
She then she shared her grief. For over 10 minutes I stood and listened while she told me how she was trying to cope. We kind of blocked the path but people walked around us and her grandchildren played safely nearby. She unburdened. I was the one who had the honour of listening: to share that precious, private and intimate moment with her. And then suddenly she had shared enough. She shook herself, checked on the children and laughed. ‘Gosh’ she said, ‘I needed that.’
She walked ahead. I watched her leave and waited for my family. Hubby says, ‘What kept you?’ I smile, ‘Oh, I just had the gift of being a Rock for someone.’
Being Rock is a simple concept of being able to support anyone when they are struggling or just having a bad day. It’s being there for someone. Not the insincere or even soppy ‘being there’ but the real thing: being present. It also involves some epic listening.
I believe we can all offer meaningful support to the people in our lives. Of course, there are times when someone might need the experts (counsellors trained to listen and suggest emotional strategies to help), but what can the rest of us do? Well, we can support in a simpler, less ‘professional’ way, just by being Rock.
I have been pondering why so many of us love social media and the attention (such as FB ‘likes’) we receive. Perhaps what makes social networking so compelling is that we usually receive this attention instantly without advice, solution fixing and ‘oh, I know how you feel’. Instead, people usually write simple positive loving statements. But are we doing this, face to face, in our everyday lives?
There seems to be constant competition for attention. I believe it is because in our busy lives we actually get very little pure attention. Can I ask you a question? When was the last time that someone sat with you, totally focussed and listened, without interrupting or telling you what to do? And, when, was the last time you did that for someone else?
Sometimes we all need a Rock to lean on. If someone stops and listens to us, we feel acknowledged, safe, supported, validated.
‘Listening says “you count, you matter; your feelings are real” without using words.’
So, let’s start to become the listeners we would like everyone else to be. What does it involve? Perhaps it’s easier to show what Being Rock isn’t so we can see what it is. Let’s look at some of the responses we don’t want when we express a problem:
How many times have you had your problems discounted, undermined and undervalued? Feelings are real and relative to the person experiencing them. Any problem is valid and worthy of attention. And how do we give that attention? We do it through an empathetic response followed by some very present listening.
And what’s empathy. Well it is a simple statement: the shorter the better. It’s something like: ‘Oh yeah, that’s a tough one.’ Make the statement; then listen.
So, can we greet people where they are while resisting the temptation to fix upstage their problem or cheer them up? And, while listening, can we remain a steady, non-judgemental presence? Can we, for a moment, be their Rock and listen without agenda? If we can, it makes all the difference.
I hope we can all reengage with our listening and start giving each other the attention we all deserve.
‘Being Rock is for every day, any time, always …’
The Holistic Life Coach
Holistic & Natural Solutions for Health and Wellbeing