Meeting someone's need to be heard usually means going beyond just hearing the content of what is said. You know this and you recognize times when you have a sense of really being heard. But when it comes asking someone to hear you, you may struggle with a clear request.
When someone "gets you", a lot is happening all at once. They let their heart be affected by you. They allow themselves to feel their own caring, grief, joy, or fear while all the while giving you their full attention.
Attending to you in this way it's almost as if they can follow your perception of something, see how it moves through you and how it touches you.
They can set aside what matters to them long enough to connect with what matters to you.
They see what lights you up though you imagine you don't show it.
With a quiet confidence, they don't have to fit your experience into their own view or related experience. They can just hang out in your world with curiosity, compassion, and delight in knowing you.
In a precious moment of being heard, all this comes together and you are nourished. With the people closest to you, you would like to create this more often. What would clear specific and do-able requests sound like in this case? Let's look at a few possibilities.
- I wonder if you could ask me some questions that would help you connect with my experience?
- Could we slow down and have a quiet pause to reflect on what each person has said before responding?
- Would you be willing to let go of understanding the reasons for my feelings and rest your attention in your heart?
- Would you be willing to say back what you really get about my experience?
- Would you be willing to take a moment and imagine you are me in the experience I am sharing and tell me what you notice?
All these requests presuppose that the other person wants to hear you at this more subtle level of connection. So before making any requests, it's important to check in with the other person about their willingness and emotional availability. No amount of specific do-able requests, when someone simply doesn't have the willingness and energy to hear you, will be helpful. When the other person can offer an honest "no" to your request to be heard, it is a gift to you. It saves you the pain that comes from trying to force a connection. It also cues you to get curious about what would truly be helpful in the moment. It might be as simple as a nap or as involved as getting support from someone else.
Offering to hear someone or asking to be heard with a level of subtle connection, requires a lot of both people in the dialogue. The more familiar you are with the nuance of how this happens, the more you can create it for yourself and others.
Take a moment now to reflect on the specific do-able requests given above. Choose one to practice offering the next time someone asks (whether implicitly or explicitly) to be heard.