It’s good to listen

It’s good to talk. But it is more important to listen. We all need to be heard, period!

Whether I am facilitating Equine Facilitated Interactions or training Mental Health First Aiders a constant theme is the power of listening. Creating the space for another to be heard. Providing individuals with a voice. Empowering others through the acknowledgement of their voices.

Too often we forget that we are social beings, we take for granted or forget the necessary value in companionship and compassion.

Ben Goldacre in his book Bad Science talks about the “apparent” effects of homeopathy – he is not a fan of the process. Interestingly though, he acknowledges that change occurs. His theory is not about the vibrational memory held in the water of elements barely measurable, but of the consultation process. GP appointments are rarely as long as 10 minutes, so the exchanges are often perfunctory at best. Mr Goldacre then tells us that with the homeopath session is longer, maybe up to 45 minutes in which the patient is allowed to more fully expand on their experience. They are invited to really share their experience.

He suggests that it is this interaction which is in itself a stimulation for low level healing – the very act of someone fully listening to us and acknowledging our situation is in itself of greater benefit than mere catharsis. Add to that they provided with a solution that the right one for them personally.

Research in Europe around the working of the Placebo effect is shedding spreading further illumination here. It appears that placebos in certain cases are as affective as the drugs they are being employed to test. For a drug to approved it has to show a marked improvement against the placebo in double-blind testing, sometimes that difference does not occur – but yet both groups display significant measured improvement.

Social neuroscience acknowledges our brains’ innate connectivity with other brains. We need to listen to each other more. I need to hear you! I need to acknowledge you! 

So here is the challenge, take the time to listen to others. Let them know that they are heard. Take the time to simply be curious about their lived experience and let them explore what they need to without direction. Resist that challenge to "save".  Question them politely and help them to explore their experiences from different perspectives.

Simply put: help them to help themselves. Remember the axiom: give a person a fish and their family will eat that night, teach them to fish and they can feed his family every night.

So yes, it is good to talk, but is a powerful and empowering social, inter-human service to listen.

And by the way you can try this with your horses (or the other animals around you) too. Not all communication is language. Let your animals know they are heard!