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Do you remember the last time you sat down and listened to someone? #compassion

Listening to someone in trouble

Listening with complete presence, and no judgment

Over the weekend, I’ve been chatting with friends online and off, and have come to realize how much that means: listening.

Listening is an act of love, I think. It is through recounting and listening that we become friends and bond as families.

When you listen to someone, without judging, without offering advice unless asked for it, and with your entire body, it can often heal not just the person you’re listening to, but also you.

Listening can be a true act of compassion.

Do you remember the last time you sat down and listened to someone? Do you remember a time when you felt heard, or acknowledged? Do you remember a time when someone you’ve only met online has provided that listening ear?

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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her forthcoming literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and will be published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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68 Comments

  • Susan Langer says:

    The ways to offer compassion and listening have changed since social media and the internet. It is more difficult to convey your feelings for the one you are showing compassion, Thanks for the write. πŸ™‚

  • It is at times difficult to give someone the attention they deserve but always worth it.

  • Hello and good morning from Vancouver, BC! First, thank you for liking my new post, Milestones, Millstones and Markers. It is a true honor to have had you visit, read and like as I make the journey of a thousand pages.

    Listening is the most powerful gift you can give a person, in my opinion. We see them, wholly and completely by holding a space for them to be. From this fertile soil, infinite possibility. No advice, no judgement; a mirror. People YEARN to be seen, to be heard – to know they exist. By holding the space of listen, they realize they DO.

    Fabulous post, and I am glad to have found your blog. I will follow, read and IN joy. Fair winds and following seas, Damyanti, wherever your horizons beckon. -SRG

    • Damyanti says:

      Thanks for stopping by, and your comment, Stephen. I’m delighted to make your acquaintance. And you can be sure you’ll be heard at this community at Daily (w)rite. This is why I listen more than I write in this space. Comments from wise visitors have taught me much over the years.

  • Lata Wonders says:

    Damyanti, listening skills were always lacking in most humans because of self-absorption. I very much fear that those skills are further on the wane in a ‘selfie’ driven world. I listen with 100% attention to people I care about, not just to what they say to me but also to what they don’t say. Body language always speaks volumes, far more than words.

  • dgkaye says:

    I love the quote by Georgia O’keefe, And yes, it’s the special moments with friends that make it all worthwhile, especially our online friends who know best what we do. πŸ™‚

  • BunKaryudo says:

    I’ve often been told that listening properly is the more important half of a conversation. I think there’s a lot to that. (Of course, the reason I remember this advice so well is because I was listening carefully at the time.)

  • Sri Kri says:

    Well said.Listening is an art.Thanks for the deep thoughts.:)
    Cheers,
    Sriram & Krithiga

  • This is so deep. I should pay more attention to listening to others from now.

  • Marie Elena says:

    β€œMost people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”― Stephen R. Covey, This truth needs to be written on our hearts. Wonderful blog post. Glad I discovered you out here.

  • Thought provoking indeed.

  • The written equivalent of listening is just as important, especially for us bloggers! Taking time to read other people’s work and let them know that what they write has value goes a long way and heals the neuroses that plague so many artists.

  • lexacain says:

    I’m a very loyal friend, always have time to listen and give support. But I’m also picky and don’t have very many close friends. So I guess that makes me compassionate but on a very limited basis.

  • Bikramjit says:

    SO much troubles can be solved if only we LISTEN..

  • blackbird says:

    That’s totally true, man. Listening is really vital- sometimes it’s the only thing you can do. But knowing that somebody else knows what’s up with you and cares about it can make a huge difference.

    • mycatgrady says:

      Yes, I do agree with you…I used to do it as a ‘volunteer’ in a Palliative Care Unit, sometimes some things in life are for one reason or another to difficult to share (painful, hurtful and yes even anger). I have heard many, many ‘deathbed’ stories and usually it’s something that could never be addressed for fear of judgement, shame or otherwise..It was a privilege to be able to listen and understand the Patient’s deepest ‘quandary’ and the last time for so many to express thoughts/actions to someone who is compassionate without being judgmental. It can be the one thing left to share and it (sometimes) relieves and allows for a more peaceful passing. I have to say that it is not always the Patient who wants to share but a loved one at the Bedside. I was involved in this volunteer service for twenty-one years and do not regret leaving it this year. It’s also taught me to be a better listener to my family and friends and sometimes on occasion to a stranger on a street….

  • That is so well said. The act of not judging and giving advice is so key and so hard.

  • Charlie says:

    I probably do some form of active listening every day, just by my job alone. I spent this entire weekend listening to a friend who just wanted to be heard. I know they appreciated it.

  • Listening, active listening, is the greatest form of communication. It’s the way you determine what kind of cry you are hearing from your newborn. At first, you’ll run around, crazy, trying another burp, a diaper change, music, rocking, etc. And how frustrating for the infant is that? But soon you’ll listen and recognize the sleepy but can’t quite get comfy cry, the hungry cry, the wet diaper cry, and you’ll take a deep breath with the non-verbal understanding communicated.

    • Yes I remember the last time I really listened. It was a conscious decision to put everything else aside and just be present to the person, to be open to them without any expectation. I also recall particular instances when others have offered me the same rare gift. When you are truly listened to, everything changes. You are more likely to hear your own inner conversations which we usually block out. Thanks for a most appropriate ,pist during Mercury retrograde.

  • Like other people have mentioned, listening is a big part of my job. People feel safe talking to me, I suppose. I sometimes don’t feel people are truly listening to me though, but maybe I;m expecting them to look too far between the lines of what I’m actually saying.

  • I get so nervous meeting strangers…but I’ve found that if you’ll just ask someone a question, they’ll start talking and talk for hours! I practiced that when I was at a conference last weekend and had no one to eat lunch with. I plopped down next to a girl who turned out to be an artist and I started asking her questions about her art, her work, etc. Listening to her actually gave me a great idea for a book! As someone once said–we don’t learn and grow when we talk. We learn and grow when we shut up and listen!

    Stephanie

  • Birgit says:

    Part of my job is active listening since I deal with people in financial crisis. Often they have no where to turn and are embarrassed by being in a financial setback. All people deserve that listening ear and no judgements-too much of that goes around. I have to say…I miss my mom because she would listen to me, never judge and always be there for a hug. She has dementia now so she is still here…but not. I miss her

  • stevetanham says:

    The gentle art of listening while fully present- so powerful, and, as you say, healing … Thanks for the post.

  • rajatnarula says:

    Well said. Listening is compassion.

  • PaulaMedical says:

    Interesting. I do tend to listen. As a nurse, it is part of the work criteria (it should be anyways). Listening to people’s problems-ups, downs, hopes, FEARS, what works for them, and what doesn’t. I find it more amazing that people listen to ME though and it has made a difference. From the suicidal patient in the ER who ran into me MONTHS later (she remembered me by name and I only interacted with her for about 5-10 minutes), to the family that just got word on their loved ones terminal diagnosis and being hugged after our conversation. Listening is a great tool, being able to communicate life altering words is a great tool too. It’s a talent in trying to find common ground for both and sometimes I lack in both.

  • True words Damyanti. Listening is a very hard thing. Listening without judgement is a gift.

  • poetryshack says:

    Being a good listener is a great virtue. When we properly listen to others we’re less self-absorbed and are able to connect with them. This is very healthy because we’re all social beings that need this.

  • Thank you for a gentle post.

  • jenanita01 says:

    Reblogged this on Anita & Jaye Dawes.

  • jenanita01 says:

    Actually listening to people seems to be going out of fashion. I personally listen to people all the time, even when I am busy, for I know how hard it is for some people to speak in the first place. Not many return the favour though…

  • Great post as always. It’s amazing how good it feels when somebody listens properly to you- we should all try to pay if forward πŸ™‚

  • Amazing subject. I do believe we all need to listen to be able to understand one another. The more we listen the better. Some listen to just hear something they can use a leverage. Others listen to see if they can help. Very few listen to see if they can ad to your life. Listening to others is a big part of caring about another person and getting to know them. Thanks for the Post.

  • As an administrator most of my life I had to do a lot of listening. Sometimes absorbing a day’s negativity from people who have needs, some genuine and some contrived, you need a quiet place to go to in the evening to recover. The listening you’re referring to however is an intimate thing between friends and in that case you go home in the evening refreshed.

    • PaulaMedical says:

      Not being sucked into other people’s downfall, and “whoa is me” attitude is a talent all itself. Often times people absorb and become that downfall and thus makes it a trickle down effect.

  • Nicodemas says:

    This is an amazing post. Thank you for this! I love your thoughts about compassion, the quote, the whole thing.

  • Roly Andrews says:

    Listening is a privilege and I get paid to do it. I work supporting people living with disabilities into employment. its not a job, nor a chore, it’s simply the best, most rewarding way you can spend 40 to 50 hours a week. I recently posted a blog called ‘being human’ which actually covers this subject.

    • dweezer19 says:

      I work as a technician in the medical field. Nothing irks me more than the rush, rush attitude that is so prevalent these days, instilled by management and embraced by many new technicians in this evre increasing technologically engineered system. I like to actaully have face to face time with each patient, listen to what they have to say. Sometimes I think it surprises them when I show genuine concern for their particular problem. I am not a machine and they are not a “case”. It is supposed to be “health”care after all.

      • Roly Andrews says:

        You are so right – surely its best practice to take a holistic approach and treat the person not the illness.

      • PaulaMedical says:

        Correct- YOU are not a machine. And they are not machines either. I hate that people are treating healthcare (hospitals, nursing homes, etc) like some sort of auto factory. These are people’s lives…not a Ford engine.

  • I spent an hour last night really listening to my wife.

  • bakrawiec says:

    I’ll never forget a story a Jesuit priest told about his uncle, also a priest, who sacrificed seeing the final stroke of a golf tournament he had been following on tv in order to give his full attention to his sister who had something important (to her) to share with him. A true sacrificial act of love and self-denial. Thanks for your powerful post that reminded me of that story. (And if you read this comment, thanks–though with your eyes, not ears– for “listening.” πŸ™‚

  • macjam47 says:

    This is a lesson for so many. Listening to others is not just a show of compassion, it is a way of expanding your world.

  • Reblogged this on The Young Novelist.

  • manipoem says:

    Strangers make confessions to me. No I’m not a priest, and often I’m surprised when it happens because it’s in different places. Last time was in a Dr.’s Office. I was waiting and an older woman told me the troubles she had with a granddaughter who was unkind to her and threatened her. I listen to souls, to hearts, to feelings, some good and some not so good. I’ve wondered why me? Maybe I look like someone who is open, I don’t ignore people so maybe that’s it. Still, it’s strange when someone comes and tells you about a loss of love, a death, a dangerous situation. I always hope they don’t ask for advice, but when they do I tell them I will pray for them. I keep a hand written journal for those and others. This is my confession about my life, I am given a task that I don’t particularly care for. I’m not a people person, I value my privacy and thoughts, and freedom, yet strangers make their life confessions to me.

    • I go through the same thing. People are just drawn to me even though I’d prefer they keep their distance. But hey, if it’s what I must do to help someone to feel better, then I’m fully willing and glad to do it.

      Sometimes I wonder why I’m alive or still alive, and then someone talks to me, someone in need of a friendly ear, and that wonder goes away. Maybe that’s why I’m here.

  • nankhatai says:

    There must be a balance, you should know when to speak and when to listen

  • Dan Antion says:

    Sometimes, people online seem to listen better than (some) people in real life. I think reading forces you to take it all in and writing forces you to think harder about your words. A lot of people listen, but they are really listening for their chance to offer their opinion, not so much to the words you are saying.

  • Beautiful post, and a good injunction to mindfulness where our interactions are concerned.

  • Shivesh says:

    Good post.. This is the reminder message what I with my theatre group (Yours Truly Theatre – have been spreading among people especially in urban town.
    We do a format called ‘Playback Theatre’ which is based on interaction only. And listening to other is one of the purposes of this theater.
    Thanks for the post! πŸ™‚

  • bamauthor says:

    Listening is a lot more difficult than talking. Most people enjoy hearing themselves talk. I have found online friends a lot better at listening… Maybe, not being in someone’s face makes it easier to listen.

    • PaulaMedical says:

      I think it depends on the topic and how you are expressing your talk. Sometimes your talk can give indication to the other person that you truly are listening.

  • agmoye says:

    As a soft spoken leader of a volunteer organization ( local Chapter) it is imperative that I listen closely to what each member has to say and don’t form an answer but listen. Some people are not as articulate as others so you must listen to understand what they are truly saying. They give me the same respect when I speak..

  • Julia Lund says:

    Listening – a dying art.

  • jr cline says:

    Let me add, the last time I listened to someone in person was a the lady at the hosiery museum a couple of days ago. She talked to me about injustice for a long time. It was quite interesting.
    Online it was yesterday. A person shared how much she wanted a horse and all the reasons she couldn’t afford one.

  • jr cline says:

    Listening is a great gift to give someone.
    I can’t think of anyone online or offline that would listen to me. I think the people I know want to talk.
    Doesn’t really matter. It’s been that way as long as I can remember.
    I’m sure my online and offline friends would quickly say they would listen to
    me if they read this. lol

  • Hemingway wrote: “When people talk listen completely. Don’t be thinking what you’re going to say. Most people never listen. Nor do they observe. You should be able to go into a room and when you come out know everything that you saw there and not only that. If that room gave you any feeling you should know exactly what it was that gave you that feeling”.

    Sadly, many have minds so filled with their own angst and anxieties that they cannot hear the voices speaking to them of their own pains. And never reaching out in compassion to others, they wonder why they feel so alone. Great post as always.

  • sfarnell says:

    It is an act of love and its quite difficult. This a besutiful podt to have written, inspiring and humbling.

  • dweezer19 says:

    Sadly, I have more online friends who are willing/perhaps able to truly listen than in day to day life. Perhaps it is busy-ness but more often I think it is an inabaility of some people to cope with the stresses of life, unless it is their own struggle. Listening is a learned art. Everyone has baggage and it often interferes with the ability to be objectively compassionate and still. Spirit is very generous in sending me angel each time I reac that point of aturatuon, feeling small, unheard and unseen. It may not a,ways be the same one, but one is always there. Great post. Hugs!

    • Julia Lund says:

      Perhaps, online, we are more consciously taking time to communicate? When I pray, I find it’s the time spent listening that brings the deepest understanding.

  • Anita Kushwaha says:

    Paying attention and deep listening is probably one of the greatest gifts we can give one another. I think in this day and age of social media and instant gratification, we often struggle with offering patience, to ourselves and then of course to others as well. Loved the O’Keefe quote too! Happy weekend. πŸ™‚

  • Steven Baird says:

    Listening is so undervalued. So many people know how to talk and express themselves — sometimes quite eloquently — that the gift of listening is forgotten. And there’s no trick to it. Two ears, one mouth, that sort of thing. And it’s astonishing what you can learn.

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