A few weeks ago, I listened to a podcast featuring a woman named Harriet Lerner. She is a psychologist who wrote a book about apologizing called Why Won't You Apologize? When I tell you this book is a game changer, I really mean it. When I heard her interview on the podcast, I was fascinated by so many things that she said. I was inspired by how thoughtful she was with her words, speaking slowly and thinking carefully about every word she said. Among the many wise words she spoke, she said that (and I'm paraphrasing) when we think about being better communicators, we always think about how we can improve our words, but one of the most important and underrated communication tools we can learn is to be a better listener.
Of course, we know this, right? "Sometimes we are so desperate to be understood that we forget to be understanding" is one of my favorite quotes that reminds me to listen with compassion. When we're in a difficult conversation, in the midst of being our most vulnerable selves, is there a better feeling in the world than the feeling of being heard and being understood? That doesn't necessarily mean you and the other person share the same feelings, although it certainly could mean that. It could just simply mean that the person really hears you and there is an acknowledgement of your feelings that allows you to feel completely validated.
When I heard Harriet speak about communication in her interview, I remember thinking what an incredibly important quality it is to be a good listener, especially for those in leadership roles. With all of the extra quarantine related time I have on my hands to daydream, I couldn't help but fantasize about what it would be like if the leaders of our country were great listeners. If, right now, during these incredibly difficult times, we all felt seen and heard by our leaders. What would it be like if we felt supported, validated, and taken care of? I suppose there are people in our country who feel heard right now, but it's not me and it's not the people who I love and care for.
When things are difficult, I usually find myself feeling paralyzed and without a voice. I become filled with so much anxiety about saying or doing the wrong thing that I end up saying and doing nothing at all. I think for some of us, it can feel easy to think that what we think and how we feel doesn't matter or that some issues are not ours to weigh in on.
I think that sometimes that can be true, but mostly it's bullshit.
I think as a woman, I've been socialized to stay quiet, stay small, not be rude, not speak out of turn, and not be too opinionated.
I think that's definitely bullshit.
Like many of you, I feel really angry right now because there is a lot of injustice to feel angry about in the world today. The lessons from my yoga practice tell me that we should value unity and strive to feel united with others, but I don't need yoga to tell me that.
I don't support any idea, any policy, or any person that does not support equality for all. I refuse to stay silent because I understand that my silence is part of the problem, and I want to be part of the solution.
Over the past few weeks, I've been wanting to be a better listener. I want to learn as much as I possibly can, and figure out how I can do better. Instead of feeling paralyzed, I am feeling ready to take action. I have spent countless hours reading, listening, and watching to take in as much educational content as possible. I've been looking to those who know more than me to understand how I might help and how I can have a more meaningful role in this experience, rather than feeling helpless and following my normal routine of feeling so overwhelmed that I end up doing nothing at all.
One of my yoga teachers, Harmony Slater, summarizes my feelings so perfectly when she writes: "It is my sincere desire to do better and live with a radical commitment to taking action against harm and injustice in all forms. For me, this means living a life rooted in ahimsa (non-harming). And, although I'm certainly not perfect in any of the eight limbs or yogic practices, I am resolved in my effort to keep doing the work, uncovering my own blind spots, unconscious biases, and choosing a path of empathy, compassion and love. "
I don't have all of the answers. In fact, I feel like I have a lot of work to do, but I feel inspired to share what I've learned so far. My hope is that you have knowledge to share with me and we can keep an open and honest conversation going about how to learn from each other. Here are a few resources to explore:
PODCASTS TO LISTEN TO
VIDEOS TO WATCH
BOOKS TO READ
ORGANIZATIONS TO SUPPORT
Through the month of June, 100% of donations made to my virtual class will be matched by me and donated to Color of Change to support the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Join me for practice and donate if you are able. Details for class can be found here.
To my white friends: right now, more than ever, we all need to be students. Sit down, listen, learn, and when you feel ready to be part of the solution, use your privilege and speak up. Commit to being part of the solution.
Be weary of those looking to divide us rather than unite us.
Black Lives Matter.