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Tips: Be Fully Present to Listen
Dr. Dale V. Atkins, December 2010

Recently a friend told me that it can be so helpful to remember the acronym WAIT ("why am I talking?") when trying to be present for family and friends who need an "empathetic ear." Psychiatrist and author M. Scott Peck wisely suggests that we "listen from emptiness." How can we best do that? Our minds sometimes race and process what is going on in our own lives as a response to what the person is sharing with us. It is most helpful to "be there" for someone and listen with an open heart; without judgment. We must try to clear out our own minds to make space for them.

As you attempt to become fully present to listen, consider these tips:

Breathe Deeply and Focus - Try to put everything else out of your mind and just be aware that your purpose at this time is to BE with this person with your attention fully on them and what they say with their words, their body, their being. If you find yourself finishing the person's sentences, are eager to jump in with a response, advice, your own comment, release those thoughts. Don't worry if you "won't remember it." If you really are there to listen, get your own thoughts out of the way so you can do just that.

Be Self Aware - If you have some thoughts or feelings that get in the way of your being fully present, pay closer attention and slow down your own thoughts. Tell yourself that whatever is in YOU will be addressed after you finish being where you are now, which is with your friend as a listener.

Be Patient - Know that by listening to someone else you will find what you need to be of help and service.

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