Maya Angelou is famous for saying, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Today so many people are hurting and they have a real need to feel heard. They need more than just someone who will listen; they also need someone who will really hear what they are saying and has a heart to care. People from all walks of life are suffering in silence and they feel as if they have nowhere to go or nobody to turn to. There is an uncertainty in the air due to the issues we all have faced this year and some of us are struggling with how to express our feelings. We are afraid that we will be judged and misunderstood.
I have talked to friends, clients and even family members who are struggling with some level of trepidation about their future. Between COVID-19, financial struggles and now with the election staring us in the face, it causes some of us to have feelings of desperation about our future. People who have, in the past, done a good job of holding things together are now facing the future with uncertainty. Of course, not everyone is struggling at the same degree; but pretty much everyone I have talked to is dealing with some sort of issue and they just want to feel as if they are being heard. People oftentimes do not feel comfortable opening up and exposing their true feelings because they are not sure about the repercussions they may face once they get on the other side of whatever they are dealing with. Vulnerability is a difficult emotion to share whether it is with friends or strangers.
What I have learned as I continue to make myself available to others is that first we must practice active listening. Let the person know they matter and that no matter what they are going through, it is not trivial and that you genuinely care. What may be a mountain to one person may be a molehill to another, but either way it is a barrier in that person’s life and it is causing them some level of angst. When someone trusts us enough to share what they are facing, we should try and make them feel safe and comfortable. A good barometer or measuring stick would be how you would want someone to make you feel if you were going through the same situation. What are some key signs you would look for that would make you feel safe and that they hear you?
This year has caused me to reflect on the things that are really important. On the top of my list is the importance of investing in others. Yes, there are other things that are important like building our careers, philanthropy, and a host of other things, but when all is said and done, what will really be remembered are the lives we have touched and how we have made them feel. When we leave this earth, we cannot take any of our earthly possessions with us, but we can leave behind a rich legacy of helping others to believe in themselves that will have an effect on future generations long after we are gone. I have learned that patience is a virtue that can help us achieve this goal. So, the next time someone approaches you and they need a little help, slow down, take a pause and just listen with all your heart. Sometimes they do not even need any advice, just someone who will listen and let them know they care. I guarantee you they will feel heard.