In my work as a therapist, that is my number one tool to help people, JUST LISTEN. If I take the time to draw out of the other person what is on his or her mind, it is only then that I can be of any significant value in helping my client resolve whatever issue [s} that brought them to me. One of the reasons people do come to me is that there is no one else they can trust to hear what they have to say since most people in their lives are oh so ready to tell them what to do, but not so ready to just LISTEN.
I mean, coming up with answers for everyone’s problems is hard work, but just listening is easy. By just allowing the other person to talk, or even more by encouraging them to share with you, you are opening up a form of communication for which you can feel satisfied that you were truly of help, while at the same time, allowing the person being heard to feel validated, as opposed to feeling he or she unable to solve problems.
In so many cases, when I listen as a professional, or even just as a friend, I can see the look on the face of the person I am listening to lighten up as if to say, ” I DO have the answer in my head, I just needed someone to help me get them out into the open “. Listening helps the other person feel respected instead of embarrassed that they needed someone else to solve their problem.
Think about it ! Would you rather just have someone tell you what you should do, or help you draw out the options in your mind and assist you in making decisions that are natural to your personality’s needs ?
Then there is the issue of agendas !!! This is a BIGGIE ! Can you tell another person what to do without allowing your own biases to interfere or rule what you say ? What if what is good for you is not good for her ? Can you be neutral ? Oh please, really !!! We often worry so much about what other people think or say about us, how much does that influence what we might say to another person if what they are bringing up touches a nerve in us ?
Then there are the parents who are trying to teach their children how to deal with life, but are so busy dealing with that life themselves that they end up preaching instead of really teaching. Do you really want your child to just echo what you think, or to understand, to have some insight into what they need to do ? I listen to parents talk to their children all the time, and very seldom do I hear that they are teaching the child to think, but instead……
……..Well, as an example, a child I have grown to know very well was adopted by a very loving family this past year. This child has survived crisis after crisis, disaster and abuse heaped upon upon more abuse. Now with good, wholesome parents, she is having to learn so much about living WITH a family, as opposed to feeling all alone. Think for a second how hard that might be when you have had no guidance for maybe thirteen years of your young life, but then all of a sudden, you have more guidance and rules than you ever knew existed. Now, there are proper words to use, proper things to say, to dress, eat and yes, to think and feel.
Now again, her new parents are very loving and well-meaning, but when there is a problem she is experiencing as she tries to fit in, belong, and be accepted in this new world, she comes to me for answers. I have frequently said to her that as much as I will always be there as a friend to help her through the difficult times of those teen years, that she needs to go to and trust her new parents. She knows that she should but then says, “They do not really hear me, they don’t listen. I know they love me and I love them, but they don’t want to hear anything uncomfortable. If I go to them with a problem, it always turns into them telling me what I should think and feel, let alone DO ! Do they think I am stupid ? I know what I am thinking, and I know that I am feeling a lot of mixed up feelings, but I just need them to listen ! How can they love me if they do not respect me ? How can they respect me if they think I am stupid and do not know my own thoughts, or have my own feelings. Sometimes I feel like one of those dummies that sit of the man’s lap and my mouth is moving, but they are not my words.”
Listening, TRULY hearing what is being said and what is felt is one of the most wonderful things you can offer another human being. And, it is so much easier than having to have all the right answers .
Gene Benedetto, Psychologist