HOW to LISTEN, When Someone needs to Talk
Please hear what I'm saying...
For many of us, frustration comes easily when we feel no one truly understands us. The exasperation builds with every discussion, until we throw our hands up in disgust and walk away. You may have asked yourself, a few times, "Why do I bother to try to explain how I feel when no one really listens?"
Allow me to suggest that you resist the urge to give up. Stand your ground and trust me when I tell you that, "you," are not the problem.
The art of listening is a talent, and one that very few people possess. If you're pouring your heart out, but receiving no feedback at all, it's understandable that you become frustrated.
A LISTENER to the rescue
It should be no surprise to learn that it's simply not enough to sit across from a friend who's in emotional turmoil and shake your head now and then or pat their hand.
Please, don't get me wrong. It's wonderful you can be supportive with genuine concern, but are you transmitting vibes of empathy?. Can you be sure you're offering what someone needs?
You needn't be a Mental Health Professional during times of immediate crisis. You can learn to listen like a pro and discover the wonderful world of deeper understanding, to the benefit of others and a bonus in your own life as well.
Being trustworthy is a huge PLUS
The simple fact that people choose to divulge their innermost pain with you is a great compliment. You have obviously proven yourself to be not only empathetic but trustworthy as well. For someone to open up to you and feel free to purge without fear or apprehension, can be considered a privilege. Handle with care.
For the sake of making a point here on the importance of listening, let me suppose a friend of yours has just stopped by, wishing to share something personal and somewhat private with you. In other words, she/he feels the need to vent, if for no other reason than to get an objective opinion from your point of view. It's apparent to you that this person sitting across from you is visibly shaken and seeming anxious. This is a good time to focus your attention directly on your visitor and express a willingness to lend an ear.
Speaking of ears.....if you are confident enough in your ability to play it by ear and still give really sound and useful advice, by all means, go right ahead.
On the other hand, you may want to submit to memory, this very helpful list of suggestions on listening like a Pro.
The vast majority of us.... have an innate desire to give and receive comfort. That's the easy part. It's another thing to know how to offer this consolation to a friend in need.
Of all the gifts you can give someone, allowing them the opportunity of expression is at the top of the list. A big part of this is having the ability to genuinely listen. I don't mean simply using your sense of hearing.
In the midst of a sensitive situation, you may instinctively react in a typical response to squelch any tears. Not such a good idea. We're well aware of the therapeutic nature of a good cry. It may be difficult to see someone crying, but buckle up and handle it.
These Ten suggestions have been tested and given the Seal of Approval:
1.) Maintain a soothing tone of voice and ask few, if any questions.
2.) Allow your friend to give her/his version of the issues, without interruption.
3.) If & when you feel a comment is appropriate, use simple, positive terms.....e.g "I understand this upsets you and I hope I can help."
4.) Do not jump, to instinctively argue with negative statements she/he may blurt out, under duress.. Remember,emotions are raw....stay clear of anything that might seem judgmental. This is about her/him and her/his issues. It is not about what you might "think." It's just not important to analyze or offer personal opinion while someone is venting. Again, what's important is to listen.
5.) Steer her/him gently, to remain in the present and to not be sidetracked by past issues. This can only add to confusion and despair.
6.) Interject a subtle break in the rhythm, though still on topic, by suggesting a cup of tea, or a casual stroll outside....simply to create a moment to breathe or bring a shift to the level of intensity.
7.) Remember you're listening and watching.... and waiting for the moment she/he begins to feel calmer. It will be apparent to you when this is happening and she/he may be ready to welcome a two-way discussion. This is a pivotal point in the encounter.
8.) Try to help her/him avoid digression, and you might even interject a few easy-to-answer questions. Just enough to help you understand her/his dilemma further. If it seems at all appropriate, at some point, keep in mind, that mild humor is not forbidden. There are no rules against smiling during serious conversation.
9.) Do not drone on and on or take on the tone of a preacher. . Know when the time has come to begin to back away from the situation and allow more time for thought and reflection.....while remaining in attentive focus.
10.) Be positive, supportive and pleasant. Let your visitor bring the discussion to an end........and thank her/him for appreciating your advice and for their trust in you. Let her/him know you are always there, in friendship.
Not too much left at this point but a hug and wish for their resolution and repaired outlook.
You've done your best. You Listened, because you care.
Please understand that a Professional would have offered much of what you so graciously did. Go ahead, be proud of yourself and know you gave the gift of your time and your understanding. As the Law of Karma states......these gifts will be returned.
Please know that this gift of "listening." is a lasting one. The opportunity you've afforded another human being in these times of distress will be appreciated more than you can know.
Informational Video. Learn about Talk Therapy
You've earned a break. Kick back & enjoy an "Oldies" great!!
Anyone can say, "I care,"
and smile in moments of despair.
But you come bearing gifts of gold
Your heart in hand and strength untold,
to help me, guide me, friend so dear
You lend me much beyond an ear.........