Feeling unheard, people withdraw or attack, making real communication and collaboration hard. Feeling fully heard relaxes people and opens them to hearing and working with others. This happens in relationships, groups and whole societies. So help people feel really heard by using active listening and reflection. Be curious. Ask: “Am I getting it?”
Some related patterns: 1 All Concerns Addressed 5 Bringing Understanding to Life 6 Capacitance 18 Consulting and Abiding by Willingness 29 Expanding Situational Curiosity 63 Power of Listening
76 Safety First, Then Challenge
Going deeper …
This is an edited version of the video on this page.
This pattern comes out of my understanding of a number of processes that are particularly potent, in which the main active person in the process – whether the facilitator or a person taking initiative in the communication – is trying to truly and deeply understand whoever is speaking. They kind of climb into that person’s universe, try to articulate what they think and feel, and explicitly check if they are really getting it. They really want to know; they aren’t just going through the motions. They reflect the essence of the speaker’s emotions as well as their content, perhaps saying something like “You really do hate your boss, don’t you?!“ – with all the emphasis of the speaker’s passion. After all, you don’t have to agree with somebody in order to reflect back the essence of what they are really feeling and thinking.
This experience of being truly and deeply heard is so rare. There is this funny kind of shift that happens in people when they really feel heard. They can kind of let go of the thing they were trying so hard to push out into the world. And there is a relaxing and opening – often with a sigh of relief. And if this is done really well with somebody, even if they are very adverserial or ideological, they will loosen up. If this is done in a whole group, they will all open up and be able to hear each other more. When that happens there is a more ready flow of information, of perspectives, emotions, insights, all the things you need in order to come to a wise decision, they are all finally there in that space. It isn’t a bunch of solid minds and hearts bouncing off of each other.
It is great for relationships when that happens, and even in the whole of society. When you look at what is going on in the larger society, you experience people in an argumentative state because the system is set up for everyone to fight and try to get their way. Hardly anything can happen and when something does happen, it is because somebody has won and somebody has lost. Then those lost people continue fighting to get heard and get their way as soon as they can.