I found out this week that planets have their own ringtones. For reals! Scientists from NASA have observed that celestial beings such as stars, planets, rings and moons each have their own song. I guess the sounds are created by the constant activity of electronic particles and magnetic fields. If you listen to the recordings made by NASA, where they meter the electromagnetic vibrations so the sounds can be "heard by human ears", you’ll notice that each song is both similar and different..
It seems to me that people are a lot like planets.
People have so much in common. Each of us is a splendid mash up of struggle, loss, joy and resilience. These are the things that make us human. And yet, we are also such unique and original versions of that humanity.
Listening helps us understand our common ground. Whether it's that recent fight with a partner, how we just lost it with our kids for the umpteenth time today, how we can’t seem to stop trying to impress our kids’ kindergarten teacher, how our lurking seasonal sadness makes life miserable, or grief about the way old hurts, memories or disappointments surface yet again, there is something familiar about these stories. When we encounter the truth of each other, we move closer to the stuff that makes us the same.
When someone shares their struggle, it gives us the chance to say, "me too". The chance to reach within ourselves for empathy. Empathy comes from recalling a time when we felt something similar to what the other person is feeling and using that memory to connect with that person.
However, listening also dignifies our differences. No matter how many times we’ve been in a similar experience, we have never actually been that other person, breathing their air and feeling their pulse. Each of those planet songs had it's own special pitch and rhythm. This matters because when we offer our, "me too", we want to tender it with caution. The "me too" is reflective, not actual. If we make it actual by saying things like, "that exact same thing happened to me" or interrupt with our own story, we take away from that person's individual experience and dignity. When we offer empathy, it's important to make sure we are not just interrupting and talking about ourselves.
Listening means holding space for the common ground and the individuality.
So we keep practicing our listening, knowing that worthwhile discoveries await. Just like those incredible scientists kept measuring and observing, we keep in mind that what we see on the surface is only the beginning of understanding someone. If you want to get lost in the music that is another person, it will take a bit of curiosity, patience and presence, but the beautiful song and deep connection are life changing.
The better we tune in to each other, the better we can all hear our own songs for ourselves. And that's why listening matters.
I love listening. I imagine my clients as if they were sea shells, stopping and holding each one to my ear and listening until I hear the sound of the ocean. I believe listening is the catalyst to growth and transformation and that's why I am building this listening company. If you get jazzed about listening, I have all kinds of resources for you. Become a better listener, get a listening partner, or let me help you find your own beautiful song. Contact me today and let's get started.