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What It Takes To Be A Professional Listener

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Saturday, May 25, 2019

by Mubeena, Founder at ListenTruly.com

I’m here to address a question from scores of mail I receive every month. What it takes to be a professional listener is probably not what you think. I do not hire other listeners because what I offer is my specific uniqueness. If you are considering this work, read on. 

Every month, I receive tons of email requesting me to train others to be professional listeners. I love that people want to help heal, and that there is a real interest in alternative therapies to get clarity and relief for the mind and heart.

But there are also certain caveats to be aware of. And to be honest, this work is not something you can train others on. It has more to do with who you are rather than what you do as a Listener.

Since I am not able to answer every email, I thought I would publish a blog article about the profession and demystify some commonly held beliefs. If you are interested in being a Listener, sit back and digest what it takes to be one.

Here is what I think you should consider before setting out to do Listening work.

It’s Not Easy

Although many people reach out to me, there is a sense that most people think this is easy work. If you are listening authentically, this work can be rewarding but also psychologically draining. If you think you’ll just have to sit back and ‘hear people out’ about their ‘problems’ then you are not practicing authentic listening. With this work, you will find yourself drained and emotionally affected by the stories you encounter. In Listening, you do not separate your own emotional vulnerabilities like normal therapists must do. It will not be easy – dealing with awkward silences, angry individuals who have a right to outbursts, or those who profusely cry over things we consider trivial.

You Can’t Judge

The craft of being empathetic does not come naturally because it involves purging any kind of judgement, opinion, belief and view of others. If you find yourself judging and forming opinions on the spot about others, gossiping, and finding faults or criticizing strangers and those known to you, you simply do not qualify as a Listener. In my book, you would also be disqualified if you are quick to correct someone or tell others what they ought to do, think or feel. This is where it gets very hard to stay authentic. Your view of people in general will be challenged and tested with every client and it is imperative that all the views you’ve held in the past about people be buried.

If those weren’t enough to give you a reality check, here’s more:

Watch Your Energy

Absorbing tremendous amounts of negative and angry energy requires you to take care of your own vibration field. I find that people who are not spiritually inclined or do not believe in energy are not qualified for this work. As I’ve said before, it is not easy to take in what people spew out. There will be things you will hear that will make your blood boil or cause your hope for a better world to diminish at every turn. This factor alone will scare you away from the profession if you do not manage your energy levels. As a Listener, I do not advocate for talking about your clients or their stories to anyone, unlike therapists who are trained to speak to ‘supervisors’. I also do not approve of maintaining a personal diary as an outlet as it risks getting found. The way you practice will need to work out what outlet in your mind you create for managing your well-being.

Biases Will Blind You

If you have preconceived notions about a race, nationality, ethnicity, culture, language, gender, sexual orientation or religion, this work is not for you. Listening is about connecting as a human species. If you currently hold grudges, anger and have yet to forgive people in your own life, I suggest working through it before taking on Listening clients. We all have biases, but you will need to put them aside for the individual across you. This is essential when doing Listening work and is the first principle in witnessing the healing journey of others. You will have to possess the quality of hyper-awareness of your own self, your feelings and learn to self-manage your biases and prejudices of the people, places, cultures you are ignorant about. Allowing biases to creep up will taint your listening process. This work is about who you are, rather than the technique you use. The process, technique, practice and nuances of the craft come alive when you know who want to be.

Formal Study of Philosophy

Perhaps the only competency or skill required from the best listeners is that they will have studied not only counseling, therapy, psychology or any of fields related to the Humanities, but also be philosophically trained. By this I mean you will need to be familiar with the major schools of eastern and western thought (ontology, epistemology, etc.) because this applies when clients begin to ask for your perspective. Let me be very clear that in this work, there is no advising. Rather the client comes to their own conclusions, answers, action plans to forge their own path. But as a Listener, you will be asked for your perspective. Notice I didn’t say ‘opinion’. At most, Listeners offer higher-level perspectives which draw from philosophical insight and study of the humanities. You will never offer a personal opinion or an “I think you should do this” response.

More Than Money

The last thing I’d like to say about this work is most important. If you are into this work for money, you aren’t offering the real craft. Neither should you practice Listening without getting paid. All I’m saying is that your purpose has to be clear to you. My purpose is spiritual practice related to non-judgment of others. Without defining your purpose and getting specific about the impact you want to create for others, you will be sucked in by the emotional turbulence of this work. Your own life’s issues will be magnified, and you will follow the likes of many therapists who are trained to bury human connections in their professional work. Listeners do the opposite by experiencing what their client is facing without putting a label to any human suffering.

If you are brave enough to say ‘yes’ to these questions, you are on your way –

Are you ready to let people deviate from the norms of the world?

Have you forgiven family, friends, colleagues or others who have caused you pain?

Can you listen without offering your own opinion?

Are you able to remain neutral in the face of offensive comments or immoral acts?

Can you accept other religions and beliefs as ‘truth’ no matter how far they are from yours?

Do you believe the idea that there is no right and wrong in ethics and no ‘one truth’?

Have you been a formal student of philosophy?

Can you keep secrets and maintain the utmost confidentiality?

Please consider these questions carefully. When you feel ready, start listening to people around you. Do not go convincing them that they need your help. People will open up naturally when they see that you do not judge, condemn or criticize. Do not get caught up in starting a formal practice without first listening to strangers on the bus, the train, on sidewalks or in the elevator. Start practicing right where you are, with a smile, a greeting, a helping hand, or a random act of kindness. Be who you are and the techniques will come through.

Summary of Article

The Big Ideas

01. You Sell You

You are not selling listening services. You are selling yourself as a person and what you can bring to a client’s sense of self. 

02. Know Your Biases

You have biases that will affect your listening skills. If you are known to convince others of your viewpoint, stay away from this work. 

03. Managing Energy

Listening is not easy and requires you to manage your physical, mental and spiritual energy. If you are drained, stop immediately.

final thought

I don’t mean to scare you away from this work. In fact, if you are ready to make a difference to the healing the world needs, start your own practice. I receive many requests asking to “join my team”. But this is a spiritually-based business that I prefer to work in by myself. The way I conduct sessions cannot be replicated and I urge you to find your own style. There are millions of people who want to be heard and not judged but growing my business with more people “under my team” goes against my intention of healing others with my direct help. 

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Mubeena is the Founder of Listen Truly, helping adults get the clarity and relief they deserve without psychotherapy. She started working as a professional listener out of her need for spiritual growth and her desire to practice non-judgment. If you would like to learn more, sign up for a free orientation session.

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