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Significance of listening in human encounters & as a therapeutic tool

Communication consists of speaking and listening but listening as an act is often overlooked. In this age, it is crucial to ask ourselves how much listening we as humans indulge in. Listening is termed as a golden key to relationships. When the speaker weaves a conversation, and if we listen with our full attention by keeping our preoccupations aside, we truly understand the human behind those words. It is an art that costs us nothing and brings in huge benefits.

Myths and stories have survived because people listened to and retained them till now. This art is full of warmth and care and makes human relations worthwhile. We learn and comprehend ways of life through others’ experiences. When we listen we become shareholders of what the other is feeling and that reduces the pain somehow, as one feels they are not alone.

At this age, we are surrounded by noise, everyone wants to share their opinion but painful conversations are avoided. We are missing out on the opportunities to truly know one’s story- which is the heart of the human experience as people want to finish a conversation as quickly as possible.

The need for listening is so strong that it led to the birth of the ‘talking cure’. It came into being so that people can unleash their emotional conflicts which were never heard before and there will be a person who will listen to these sufferings which will facilitate one’s healing. Therefore listening is one of the most crucial elements in therapy.

The basic help that listening does for the counselor is to know the client’s side of the story. If by speaking the client invites the therapist to look into their lives, then listening makes this process happen. Without understanding the worldview of the client, the therapist won't be able to challenge, change or transform it. When one speaks, we go through their story back and forth and then come back to the present. This may not always be done linearly due to the nature of the free association. It's like the client is the driver and therapist at the passenger going through places which clients take us to. The therapist may help the client with directions, red lights, and restricted zones.

The patient is required to speak their heart out for the therapist to get a background. This happens when the therapist follows an objective listening style and relates to the feeling the patient is facing and then keeps an empathetic approach. Such an environment compels the therapist to keep their preoccupancy aside to listen and the client to express themselves fully without any fear of judgment.

Listening promotes rapport building which makes the counselor trustworthy. It helps the therapist decipher how to go about the case and what areas require work. Listening also helps in noticing what is not being conveyed and what is being resisted. Silences for instance are also spaces where listening occurs. The area of resistance is where the work has to be done, and with listening, that can be deciphered.

It has taken our whole life to come to this point and make our story heard to someone. It will take its own sweet time for the client to open up and the therapist to understand what has brought the patient here to talk. People bring with themselves vivid stories filled with a rollercoaster of emotions and that has to be handled with care. This can be done by a simple act of listening first. Understanding little pauses, stutters, general appearance and behavior, eye contact can do wonders.

The importance of reflective listening given by Carl Rogers is undeniable. It is about the counselor repeating what has been said which makes the client judge whether their side is being listened to or not. The therapist puts their understanding in their own words. A challenging situation can lead to becoming a cooperative one when there is empathetic listening and unconditional positive regard with skillful questioning, encouraging, and paraphrasing, keeping a non-judgmental stance.

The act of listening by my therapist meant everything to me. The feeling that your complex feelings are attended to by the simple act of listening is liberating. While one listens to their self-talking, this is an experience itself. They become self-aware as it helps give an insight into ourselves and facilitates self-awareness which is crucial in the therapeutic framework. The counselor also observes themselves listening and notices their reactions to stories which the clients weave. As we know it is a vulnerable process for both of them, the counselor may be seeking answers to many questions themselves too.

When the counselor listens, the client feels it promotes self-sufficiency. Giving advice leads the client to depend on the therapist and disrupt the work which has to be done. In the end, the main goal is self-growth and that happens when one speaks and reflects. For this to happen, we require objective listening which makes clients rely on themselves and facilitates their inner healing and growth.

Goals of what the clients want to achieve get clearer when the therapist listens. It has the power to make the client feel validated and okay to feel the way they are feeling. It leads to the entangling of the many emotions one is going through at that moment. After all, therapy strives to be a place that is different from the outside world which might be oppressive to the client as they feel safe and that is promoted by these acts of