It’s understandable how being heard can have an impact on our mental health, but can having someone there to listen to us impact our physical health as well?
According to a study out of NYU Grossman School of Medicine, researchers have found that having a good listener in our lives is associated with improved brain health and greater cognitive resilience.
In this study, researchers examined the modifying effect of individual forms of social support on the relationship between cerebral volume and cognitive performance. The cognitive function of individuals with greater availability of one specific form of social support was higher relative to their total cerebral volume. This key form of social support was listener availability and it was highly associated with greater cognitive resilience.
So what do we do when we’re struggling to be heard?
Theology of The Body tells us that love is the only appropriate response to another person. Listening is an important part of loving. To love someone means working for their good, but we can’t know what they need help with, what their goals are, or what they are struggling with if we aren’t willing to listen–and that goes for kids as well as adults. Listening is hard, but it is even harder to feel loved by someone who is unwilling to really listen to us.
Here are three ways to ensure you can be heard:
1. Be Direct–If you want to be heard, it’s best to be clear and direct. Sometimes, in a mistaken attempt to be polite, we simply hint at what we want or even just describe a problem and hope others will come up with ways to solve. But if other people don’t pick up the hint, or propose solutions that don’t really meet our need, we can become resentful and feel like we weren’t being heard. If you have a problem or need, it’s best to begin the conversation by saying exactly what you want from the people around you. For instance, instead of announcing, “This place is a mess!” and becoming upset when you end up cleaning everything yourself, say, “Guys, listen up. We need to make a plan for how we’re going to get the place cleaned up before dinner.” The clearer you are about what you want, the more likely it is you will actually be heard.
2. Always End a Conversation with A Plan–Often we don’t feel heard because we discuss a problem with someone but don’t actually end the conversation with any action items or a plan for following up. This is usually the problem when people say, “We’ve talked about this a million times, but nothing ever changes.” That usually means that you talked about the problem but there were no clear decisions about what to do about it, who was going to do those things, and when you were going to check in with each other for how things were going and what else might need to be done. If you end a conversation without a follow-up plan that determines who is going to do what by when, then chances are high that you will be talking about this same problem again–and again, and again–in the very near future. If you want to be heard, make sure to end your conversations with clear action items, who is going to be responsible for following up, and when you are going to follow-up.
3. Back Up Words with Action–If you’ve done all the things we’ve mentioned so far, and you still aren’t being heard, there’s a good chance the other person isn’t hearing you because they don’t want to listen. It may be that things are working for them the way they are and they don’t want to change even if that means that you are being inconvenienced. Of course, that’s not OK. In those cases, it’s best not to use more words. It’s time to take action. Tell the person that you aren’t happy leaving things as they are and that you have decided to make some changes on your own, invite them to join you in solving the problem, but if they still refuse (or don’t follow through) go ahead and take that as permission to act alone to make some changes even if they affect the other person. Taking action may just be the thing to do to get the other person’s attention. Either way, you’ll feel better, because you’ve taken active steps to solve the problem.
If you need additional support or resources for being heard and strengthening your relationships with others, visit us online at CatholicCounselors.com!