“People do their best thinking when given the space without interruption.” – Nancy Kline
As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I decided to register for a coaching diploma at The South African College of Applied Psychology (SACAP). I was under the impression that my clients were looking to me for answers. Little did I know that by giving them the opportunity to talk without interruption, they would have their own best answer.
This active listening skill raised my anxiety, as I wanted to share my own insights with my clients as they popped into my head. I wanted to give advice, and simply offer a solution to their problem so that everything could be okay, but it’s not that simple! I’m an empath by nature, and I don’t like to see another distressed! Knowing that I could provide my solution to their problem helped me to feel less anxious, as if I had been able to make a difference in their life.
I literally thought that by signing up for the course, I’d immediately attain some form of wisdom as if I were given a key to unlock the “wise woman” part of me. Thereafter, I would learn a list of skills that I would be able to apply to my life overnight and that I would know “everything”. Little did I understand that “this knowing” was actually a process of far greater self-reflection and introspection that demanded discipline, commitment, and consistency.
Interestingly, I started my studies in my early 40’s which Eric Erikson identified in his psychosocial model as “middle adulthood.” Erikson identifies at this stage that we are conflicted between generativity versus stagnation. Generativity means wanting to share one’s knowledge and experiences with the next generation (other’s). Stagnation means feeling stuck similar to being in a rut. Although I was an older student, it was therefore highly appropriate that I was studying, as I had entered into a stage of my life that I wanted to grow and engage with others on a deeper level. I found great relief in his theory, consolidating my desire to nurture another’s infinite growth, development and inherent strength. Ultimately, my learning was to listen rather than to give advice.
Before I knew it I was writing assignments and I had to reflect on my life at a deep level – a place I didn’t think that I would need to delve into in order to “listen” to someone else. My levels of anxiety heightened and I found myself feeling fairly low at times. Whats more, I was “in it” and for me there was nowhere to go, but to get through it – trust me there were parts of me that were constantly searching for reasons to end my journey prematurely! Each module triggered a different part of me, and I found myself submerged in a state of constant reflection and analysis going through an unexpected period of immense growth as a human being.
The benefits of actual listening are immense: the skill provides a secure base for trust to grow and develop; friendships and relationships deepen, and genuine self-care can be cultivated. In Part 2 of this post, I will speak into the skill of really listening.