How to LISTEN #BlackLivesMatter

Last week, during a session, a client thanked me for being a good listener. A GOOD LISTENER! Wow. I closed the door and cried a little afterward. There is nothing more important to me than being a good listener. NOTHING. After almost two decades of being a therapist, where listening is THE most important part of my job, I still find it challenging to truly listen to what someone else is saying without distorting the meaning with my own filter, context, feelings, and opinions.

Last week, I was watching and listening to everybody NOT listening to each other with regard to the simple and important concept that the Black Lives Matter movement is deserving of it’s own space and attention without it’s meaning and value being distorted by other’s filters, context, feelings, opinions, or even facts.

I get it. Listening is hard. I just admitted that it’s hard for me and it’s my JOB, a job I’ve been doing for almost two decades! Listening well is a skill, one that takes practice to improve. A person can only listen if they are focused, open minded, patient, interested, and humble. These traits are necessary if one wants to REALLY listen for the sake of listening. Listening, in the purest sense of the word, is just giving attention to something, but a person simply can NOT listen unless they have humility.

Giving our attention to something or someone else is really hard to do when our own somethings and selves are demanding to be heard at the same time. But it’s possible if humility is a part of the listening process. The process of listening is pure and purposeful, and based on what I’m seeing and hearing with regard to Black Lives Matter, this process is currently something people aren’t familiar with, have not been taught correctly, and for some, something they just don’t care to do.

The arguments about how to interpret the meaning and value of the Black Lives Matter movement is not happening because PEOPLE ARE NOT LISTENING with an open and fair mind. If they were, there would be no argument, because BLACK LIVES DO MATTER. That is an inarguable fact. Black lives have always mattered despite how some felt about it and treated them in the past and still feel about it and treat them today. Bigotry is a feeling, easily disproved with facts.

Everyone has the right to feel feelings. Feelings are human. You can’t stop feelings. Trying not to feel feelings is very much like trying to tame the ocean’s waves. IMPOSSIBLE. Feelings are powerful and real, but they are subjective and they change. You can do things with feelings, like let your feelings keep you from LISTENING to the facts, but that never turns them into facts.

Everyone does NOT have the right to create facts. Facts are observable, measurable, non-arbitrary things. Facts don’t change. Facts have nothing to do with feelings. Facts keep us humble. Facts keep us SAFE. Facts give us structure and perspective and consistency.

It is a fact that we accomplish more when we focus on one thing at a time and give each thing its space and time and attention. It is a FACT that historically, Black lives have NOT mattered, and presently, this is still a huge problem that must be acknowledged and addressed. Anyone who argues with this fact is simply acting on a feeling, confusing it with the facts.

Black Lives Matter. Period. This idea stands alone. This is a fact. Sure, there are other facts, life is full of facts, but one fact doesn’t make another fact un-factual. Certainly we can agree on that. But for the sake of this post, I’m sticking with one fact: Black Lives Matter.

I believe that the Black Lives Matter movement should be given the space and attention to stand-alone and be heard! This is how I feel. But my feelings come from a fact and that fact is that NOT listening to the facts is dangerous to humans. Not listening in general is a barrier to intimacy, to friendship, to love, to collaboration, to equality. Not listening carefully and purposefully has been proven to be the catalyst of much sadness, misunderstanding, and separation. Not listening is killing people.


I was trying to figure out when this not listening thing became the communication rule instead of the exception, but history tells us that not listening has actually been the unwritten rule and probably never the exception. Had it been otherwise, we certainly wouldn’t be able to look back on thousands of years of recorded history and wonder how we haven’t managed to see that this simple idea, yet difficult skill, LISTENING TO OTHERS, is the only thing that makes anything matter.


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