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Reflection: Redefining our Relationships and Active Listening

***Please be aware that this piece is not condoning abusive behaviour. It is written with the intention of helping people assess their view on relationships and whether that plays a role in their ability to listen effectively.***

It’s hard to be vulnerable. It can be seen as being weak, ungrateful, or an attention-seeking method. If the first response to, “This makes me feel overwhelmed…” is someone interrupting you with, “You have so much to be thankful for”, a wall around your feelings is naturally built.

Is it wrong to feel overwhelmed or sad? Why do we often hear the phrase: “Why are you sad? You shouldn’t be feeling so low”. The use of the word “should” makes this all worse, as if we’re making a mistake. As if our emotions are not valid.

Am I not valid?

These thoughts seem to surface more when we’re being dismissed or not being listened to. Increasingly, conversations are taking the form of plots and events, rather than deeper discussions. Relationships seem to be built on a foundation of usefulness to one another rather than loving one another for the sake of Allah, which places egos at the center of the relationship.

Reflection: What is defining my relationships?

Building or reframing any relationship with the sole intention of pleasing Allah can be one of first steppingstones in becoming an effective and compassionate Listener. Redefining the nature of our relationships changes our views on what these relationships can possibly serve. Rather than making them a means to satisfy our egos, they’ll become a means of gaining blessings, inshallah.

  1. Try to do small acts of kindness without any expectations from people. For example: holding the door open for someone, giving up your seat in the bus, etc. This will help train you in doing acts without the motivation of getting anything in return.

  2. If you have time, volunteer for a cause/project that you’re passionate about. This re-enforces the first bullet and will fuel your compassion.

  3. Assess how you feel about some of your close relationships. This will help you frame and think more deeply about your relationships. Ask yourself:

    1. Do I wish I could spend more time with them, if so, why?
    2. Do I get triggered by them, if so, why?
    3. What are some qualities of these people that I admire?
    4. On what terms or foundations was this relationship established?
    5. In which situations do I reach out to that person?
    6. Think about someone you recently had a disagreement with and write down 3 amazing qualities about them.

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About the author:

Born and raised in Montréal with a Pakistani background, Maryam grew up drinking chai while watching Radio-Canada. Aside from giving references from The Office, you can catch her re-reading some of her all-time favourite books like The Kite runner by Khaled Hosseini. Currently, she’s a graduate student in Public Health at McGill University, who is passionate about creating a discourse regarding colonialism, identity, and gender in health and developing solutions to promote health equity.