Posted by: eranmagen | July 8, 2009

The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful

yinyangSupportive Listening can bring out the beautiful and joyous in people. Although we tend to think about Supportive Listening as something we “do” when others are upset or unhappy, this way of relating to others aims, first and foremost, to help them explore, express, and accept themselves – the good, the bad, and the beautiful.

Many of us are willing to accept the good in us only half-heartedly. I know many people who automatically respond to any compliment directed at them by denying its truth (“no, really, it only looks like I know what I’m doing”), or minimizing their accomplishment (“thanks, yeah, I guess I just got lucky, but I’m sure it won’t go this well next time.”).

Supportive Listening allows people to come into contact with what they see as the bad in themselves, without having to fear that they would lose the warm acceptance of the Supportive Listener. In time, people can come to accept the so-called “bad parts” of their experiences, at first by acknowledging their existence (“I guess I just get really jealous sometimes”), and later by learning to see their experiences in a more multi-faceted way (“come to think of it, I usually feel really jealous only when I’m tired”).

But the crown achievement of Supportive Listening is when people learn to see the beautiful in themselves, or experiences they have had. I recently met someone at a social event, and we had a nice conversation. As our conversation progressed, I naturally fell into a “Supportive Listening mode,” although my new friend did not express any particular distress. Minutes later, I found myself listening to him as he searched for words to describe a life-changing experience he’s had years ago, which he hesitatingly described as “mystical,” during which he felt that he was connected to the whole world around him, and felt a deep peace and calmness.

It was a beautiful story to hear. Supporting him as he reconstructed the experience, fitting it with words and meaning, I felt as though I had helped him in brushing off the dust from a beautiful part of him, which he was now able to appreciate and enjoy more deeply than before.

I encourage You to experiment with offering Supportive Listening even in regular conversations. Put your focus on the other person and on your acceptance of them, be curious and accepting of their experience and their story, and see what happens. You just might experience beauty.

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