When was the last time you felt heard? Like someone was really listening to what you had to say? I have talked about listening to others and listening to yourself but today I wanted to explain why it is so important.
“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and to be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them” – Ralph Nichols
The Human Givens Approach
In 1943 Abraham Maslow stated that in order to achieve one’s full potential (growth) we need to meet some basic and physiological needs (physiological, safety, love, and esteem):
Maslow updated it in the 1970s to include cognitive, aesthetic and transcendence. The idea is that if we have a deficiency in our basic needs we are motivated to meet them. Once the lower basic need is satisfied we can then move on to meet the next level and so on.
More recently Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrell created the Human Givens approach which works on the principle that we all have a set of needs and that if they are met we not only survive but thrive and develop.
Our emotional needs
The emotional needs we look to meet (from the Human Givens approach) include:
- Security — safe territory and an environment which allows us to develop fully
- Attention (to give and receive it) — a form of nutrition
- A sense of autonomy and control — having the volition to make responsible choices
- Emotional intimacy — to know that at least one other person accepts us totally for who we are, “warts ‘n’ all”
- Feeling part of a wider community
- Privacy — opportunity to reflect and consolidate experience
- A sense of status within social groupings
- A sense of competence and achievement
- Meaning and purpose — which come from being stretched in what we do and think.
What has this got to do with listening? Well, whether we look at Maslow or the Human Givens approach we have a need to receive attention, have emotional intimacy, feel part of a tribe (belong) and to receive respect from others. These are all covered by being listened to. Therefore we could surmise that being listened to is a basic human need and if we are not it causes us to feel incomplete, or stuck or even worse can cause us mental health problems.
When we feel that people aren’t listening to us, that we aren’t being heard, we might feel that we are misunderstood, that we are isolated and invisible. However, when we feel that someone is listening to us we can feel understood, validated, we can begin to heal.
The listener doesn’t have to be someone we know, it can be a stranger. As long as the stranger listens fully, actively and respectfully. Being listened to may cause us a lot of emotion, we may cry, shout, releasing all the pain and frustration pent up inside. The listener may ask us questions to help us think, they may or may not offer advice or solutions, in fact, better if they don’t (in my humble opinion!) to allow us to process our thoughts and help ourselves.
So, if you feel you are not truly being heard, if you feel misunderstood, demotivated or isolated, talk to someone. A friend who will listen fully or a stranger it doesn’t matter. If you are feeling depressed or feel your mental health is suffering then www.mind.org.uk is a good place to start.
If you would like to book a session with me then get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07791767654