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The past 15 years working in the deeply meaningful and humbling field of healthcare has revealed a number of things to me.

One of the most powerful is the importance of listening.

I’ve worked with people living with cancer, people at the end of their life in palliative care, addicts, pregnant women, and new moms. I’ve worked in fertility, with low income or homeless women who have mental health or addiction issues, and everything in between.

I’ve seen and heard a lot, and I’m so honoured that people share their stories with me.

One thing that has become clearer over the years is how alike we all are. Yes, we are absolutely unique in our special ways—what interests us, what we look like, our family upbringing—but if you boil it down, the same things drive us all.

We want to be seen. We want to be loved.

We need to be heard.

We want to be respected and we all have passions or interests that light us up. We also want to be free from pain or discomfort—be it mental, physical, or emotional. We want our loved ones to be well.

And we so desperately want to be understood.

So much of my time with people is simply spent in the role of listening. Listening, and then reflecting back on what I’ve heard.

To be truly heard is one of the most profound and deepest ways to heal.

Everyone is simply trying to do the best they can. We are all “broken” or wounded in some way—no matter what it looks like on the outside. And sometimes, those who might look the most broken are some of the strongest and most wise and self-aware people I’ve encountered.

One powerful realization I’ve continually experienced is: the more I walk with people on their health journey, the more gentleness and compassion I have for them, but also for my own journey. And the more self-compassion I have, the greater my capacity is to hold whatever people bring in. The more compassion and empathy I have, the greater my ability is to sit with someone in their suffering, or joy, and see them. Be with them. The better I am able to do my job well, the better I am out in the world.

Ultimately, if we were all able to listen more and truly see each other, the more we would recognize that we are all suffering and have challenges. And we’re simply doing the best we can at the time.

This might result in having more compassion for friends, neighbours, or the person sitting next to us on the bus. We might also have an increased compassion for ourselves, which then filters out into our world. And from what I see, the world needs as much compassion as it can get right now.

So, the next time you’re struggling or feeling the need to be heard, you might first start by listening.