If They Know How to Listen, They Get it without You Having to Explain

· December 9, 2017

Some people are simply magical. Those people with a special radar in their hearts that gives them instant insight into our sorrows, hopes, and joys. They don’t need us to tell them anything, because they know how to read between the lines. All they need is one look, one expression. These special people speak the language of love, and in their eyes is peace you just want to jump into.

Emily Dickinson said in one of her poems that no one would live in vain if they manage, at least once, to prevent a heart from breaking, to soothe a sorrow, to help an exhausted bird find its nest, or to ease the grief of another person. Under these flowery words, there is a a basic, profound idea. We have to feel other people’s needs in order to be able to help them.

“Listening carefully makes you special. But most people never listen.”
-Ernest Hemingway-

However, and this is something we all know, in our everyday lives there is a something called hypocrisy. Little by little, we’ve resigned ourselves to it. People praise altruism and respect, occasionally. But at the same time, they’re unable to see, feel, or understand the ones closest to them.

We can never forget that those who need help the most don’t always know how to ask for it. Or they might even be unable to do so. Because those who suffer don’t wave the flag of pain. In fact, a lot of times they’ll hide their pain in silence. Like teens who lock themselves in their rooms, like the person who lets tears fall down their cheeks, their spouse just on the other side of the bed.

Knowing how to feel and listen to the needs of other people is what makes us human. Because we make use of that emotional closeness that gives humankind value by worrying about the people around us. Think about it.


A woman looking thoughtful with a heart in her chest.

I feel you and get you without you saying anything at all

Although we might not believe it, most of us have an exceptional power: the ability to read minds. That’s what Daniel Siegel tells us. He is a doctor in psychiatry at Harvard University and director of the “Center for Culture, Brain and Development.”

In his book entitled “The Mindful Brain,” he explains that each one of us can become a great “mind reader.” Because the mind — and here comes the most important part– is governed by a whole universe of emotions we should be able to figure out.

In fact, most of us do apply this “superpower” in our everyday lives. It’s enough to see how our bosses sit and take a deep breath to warn us something is not right. We get that there’s something worrying our friends by the tone they use. We know when our children are lying to us and when our sibling has fallen in love again.

Our everyday emotional bubbles

Emotions are like champagne bubbles. They disturb our daily universes: the faces, the expressions, the gestures, the words … Emotions flow around us in a chaotic way exploding in little information bombs. However, Dr. Siegel himself warns us there are people with “emotional blindness.” And there are actually personalities that are incapable of feeling those emotional “bubbles” from the people around them.

Many colorful bubbles with rainbow colors.

William Ickes is one of the psychologists who has studied the dimension of empathy at both the scientific and experimental levels. As curious as it might seem, the capacity for empathy among family members usually doesn’t exceed 35 points. However, among good friends it exceeds 70 points.

The reason? It is very common for people to have all kinds of personal filters within their family. Sometimes, we see our children, significant other, siblings or parents how we want them to be and not how they really are.

That is the mental blindness that we use to avoid conflict. We assure ourselves that our “little worlds” are doing fine. When the truth is that there are many needs to take care of and many relationships to heal.

People who know how to listen from the heart

Listening to what the other person is saying without words has a name: emotional communication. This “superpower” has evolved in our species in the area of the brain that deals with empathy. From the University of Monash in Australia comes the idea that affective empathy is related to the “insular cortex.” While cognitive empathy, on the other hand, is located in the “mediocingular cortex,” just above where the two brain hemispheres meet.

“We must listen to our head, but also let our heart speak.”
-Marguerite Yourcenar-

We all this in our brains. However, we don’t always use it to its full potential. Not enough will and too much ego is often why not everyone knows how to feel or listen with authentic intimacy. It is what Emily Dickinson said to us in her poem: “no life would be in vain if it could feel and help another life.”

Because whoever feels from the heart, is alive. And whoever helps another shows real willpower and concern for the other person. That is where that wonderful power that makes us so unique comes from. The one that makes our relationships meaningful and basically gives us the most valuable power that exists. The power of giving happiness to others.