The greatest gift that you can give to anyone is to listen deeply. It doesn’t matter if they’re 2 or in their 90’s, it doesn’t matter what their work situation is or anything else about their life. Everyone wants to feel heard.
Alison was trying to interview her uncle and mother to put together a family history. The camera
was focused on them and all questions were focused on their life. Every time she asked a
question her aunt, who was off camera, responded with a story about her life. After about 30
minutes Alison knew that she wasn’t going to get what she wanted and turned off the camera.
They continued the conversation and had a lot of laughs and meaningful moments. Alison
described her aunt as kind of glum and easily able to see the negative side of any situation.
But not this day. Alison said that after the conversation her aunt appeared to have shed her
cloak of darkness and actually glowed.
Bob and I took our car in for service and spoke to the intake person about what we needed.
He spoke excellent English with a strong accent so I asked where he was from. He said Syria.
I said that I had never met anyone from Syria and was very curious about the food. What were his
favorite Syrian foods? He responded; Yes, it was very difficult for me in my country. I worked for
the Americans as a driver and had my life threatened many times. He told me his immigration
story in depth and it was fascinating.
When you listen to someone with the intention of learning about them, you validate their existence.
You show them that they and their life experience have meaning.
Remembering the 4 W’s helps:
Who, What, Why and Where
1. Who is their favorite author, artist or designer
2. What is their favorite food, music or activity
3. Why did they choose their career, hobby or sport
4. Where did they go to school, meet their spouse or travel.
Of course these are just suggestions to get the conversation going. Once you get started you’ll think of plenty of things to ask.
Dead people say: Every single human being on this planet has value. The greatest gift that you can give to them is to listen with your whole heart.