Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. Phil 4:13 (The Message).
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by Hayne Steen, MAMFT 

Genuine listening means suspending memory, desire, and judgment — and, for a moment at least, existing for the other person.”  -Michael Nichols

There is a difference between hearing and listening. You can hear words without ever taking an emotional risk. You might even be able to repeat what's been said but that does not mean that you have actually entered into the moment with someone. 

Empathy and the willingness to be vulnerable are keys to true listening. Empathy is described by Pscychology Today as, "the experience of understanding another person's condition from their perspective. You place yourself in their shoes and feel what they are feeling."  

Far too often, we are starving for someone to feel what we feel, to identify with us in whatever experience we are going through. No one ever says, "there are just way too many people in my life competing to listen to me." No, our experience tells us quite the opposite. Most often we are alone in it. 

A good friend recently asked me, "What is the one thread that connects all counseling clients?" I sat there for a moment a little stumped and thought about it. After a couple minutes I responded, "Pain. People seek out counseling when they are in some form of emotional pain." That's how I left it but somehow that did not feel like a complete answer. About a week later it finally occurred to me. People seek out counseling when they feel lonely in their pain. We need to know that someone is really listening.  

[How Did You Find Me Here by David Wilcox]

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” -Henri Nouwen

So, what keeps us from really listening? 

There is no "one thing" that keep us from listening to one another. I submit that we are surrounded by so much external and internal noise and most often we would choose to numb or neglect the noise. Some men might even be tempted to blame their poor listening on "maleness." Sorry guys. That's a lame and tired excuse. Some folks might blame it on being too busy. We tend to insulate ourselves from pain by turning up the noise when we really just need some quiet.

What is external noise? Pesky cell phone alerts? Dogs barking? Cars honking? Police sirens blaring? Baristas brewing? Babies screaming? Is there a mound of laundry that whispers? Is it clutter on the kitchen counter that summons? Dirty dishes that smell? Could it be the chorus of kids whining in the back seat? Is our checklist of "to do's" only half way completed? A lack of margin? Is there a calendar that is way too full? Are our lives marked by rush and hurry? 

What is internal noise? Do we cary around unattended heartache? Is there a billowing sea of anxious thoughts? What about our guilt or shame? How about dashed hopes and dreams? Is there some memory of being hurt or violated? Do we stay triggered by some trauma? Is there some loss that we are grieving? 

[Soul Song by David Wilcox]

"Who can listen to a story of loneliness and despair without taking the risk of experiencing similar pains in his own heart and even losing his precious peace of mind? In short: “Who can take away suffering without entering it?"  -Henri Nouwen

We have established that we live in an awfully noisy world. There are many competing voices clamoring for our attention. Gadget makers now attempt to sell us on the big idea that buying their latest product will somehow help us to feel more heard, more known, and more connected. In all honesty though, our gadgets only seem to trigger feelings of greater disconnection.  

We stare at our individual screens and laugh alone looking up occasionally when necessary. We are absolutely mesmerized by our glowing screens yet we are severely underwhelmed by the company of one another. I can not think of another experience that has as much power to leave us feeling so desperately isolated and lonely. 

Sometimes our very own lives shout for our attention (through break downs, burn out, illness, heart break) while other times there is just a subtle whisper. If you are currently in a season when you need some help tuning into your life, to the voice of a loved one, or to the voice of God, I'd love to offer you a safe space to come quiet the noise a bit. 

Whether that looks like making a counseling appointment or a helping you select a SoulCare retreat, both are designed to invite you to come away from the external noise around us and courageously enter into the internal noise within. The good news is that you do not have to enter the noise alone.

May you find yourself listening with a greater sense of presence. And may you find yourself being deeply heard and understood as well. You are worth it. 

[What You Whispered by David Wilcox]

"Do not believe that he who seeks to comfort you lives untroubled among the simple and quiet words that sometimes do you good. His life has much difficulty and sadness and remains far behind yours. Were it otherwise, he would never have been able to find those words.” -Rainer Maria Rilke

16 Ways to Be a Terrible Listener
Larry Barker & Kittie Watson, Listen Up
Nichols, R. G. and L. A. Stevens (1957). Are you listening?

  • Interrupt the speaker.
  • Don't look at the speaker.
  • Rush the speaker and make them feel that they are wasting the listener's time.
  • Show interest in something other than the conversation.
  • Get ahead of the speaker and finishing their thoughts.
  • Say, "Yes, but . . .," as if the listener has made up their mind.
  • Top the speaker's story with "That reminds me. . ." or "That's nothing, let me tell you about. . ."
  • Forget what was talked about previously.
  • Ask too many questions about details.
  • Call the subject uninteresting
  • Criticize the speaker &/or delivery
  • Listen only for facts (bottom line)
  • Fake paying attention
  • Tolerate or create distractions
  • Tune out difficult material
  • Let emotional words block the message


Quiet - The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

The Lost Art of Listening  by Michael Nichols

The Voice of the Heart by Chipp Dodd

Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer

The Gift of Being Yourself by Dr. David Benner

Getting the Love You Want by Harvel Hendricks

Bible  - 70+ verses dedicated to listening



The Life of Pi

Good Will Hunting

The Story of Us

Hope Springs

Alone in the Wilderness

Refer a Friend

Did you know that for every friend you refer to me (who shows up) I will offer you 1 FREE counseling session? 


Feel free to email me directly of you would like to reconnect at

Register Online

I now offer an option of registering as a client securely online. You can register and view my availability online by CLICKING HERE

Regional Voice

Q Commons Event

Date: October 9, 2014
City: Chattanooga
Venue: The CampHouse

Hayne has been invited to speak at Q Commons as a voice for mental health in Chattanooga. Join 10,000 participants across 60+ cities for an evening of vision, learning and engagement on the cultural issues that matter most. Combining three nationally broadcasted talks (Tim Keller, Ann Voscamp, Gabe Lyons) with three locally curated, in-person talks (Donna Williams, Nick Macco/Adam Boeselagger, Hayne Steen) you will be informed and equipped to advance good.


Writing Projects

Currently Hayne is working on a handful of writing projects that bring him a great deal of life and will hopefully be of some encouragement to others. 

A book being designed to curate a contemplative conversation with parents raising their children in the digital age.

Being Rooted
A book and a website in the making designed to provoke a holy curiosity for the painful places in your story.

Letters to Francine
Letters to Francine is an unfolding weekly conversation between a seasoned spiritual director (Francine) and a soul care intern (Hutch), who are encountering a wide range of personalities seeking spiritual direction.


Do you know someone who could use some time away to rest and recovery from the throws of a busy schedule? Feel free to share about The SoulCare Project with them. 

David Wilcox Weekend
September 26-28

Nouwen Retreat 
October 29-31

Artist Retreat (closed)
November 14-16


Reading List

Are you looking for some reading suggestions that will help assist in your own work away from our time together? 


3069 Broad Street, Suite 7D
Chattanooga, TN 37408


Call Hayne directly 
at 423.517.7076

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As a client of mine at Elbow Tree, may this monthly email bring you terrific encouragement.

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Elbow Tree Christian Counseling, LLC
38 South Dixie Highway
Saint Augustine, FL 32084

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