Most of my life I have been the ear for other people. They called and spilled whatever they needed to share. It was not a conversation. But I know from experience that sometimes we just want someone to listen, to “witness” what we’re experiencing.
Years ago, I had someone for such talks. The cue was, “Can you listen?” It was up to her whether she chose to give me that time. She usually did. And she knew I wasn’t asking for advice or for her to share her experiences. I had not called for a conversation. I had called because I needed at least one person on the planet to know what I was going through. I needed a witness to my life.
People in pain don’t need others telling them how they did it.
People in pain don’t need others giving advice.
People in pain are trying to deal with what life has given them, and sometimes the best help we can offer is to just listen.
I know how hard that is to do! Having some adventures under my belt and collecting degrees has made me a talking machine.
But I also know how to listen. And, I taught high school and college students and business professionals how to listen in my Assertiveness Training workshops in the 70s.
Because I know how important it is for someone to have a witness when they’re alone, I hope to enlist you to be a witness for the people you care about. All you have to do is relax and listen!
But there are guidelines for both parties.
The one seeking the listening should be crystal clear with their friend what they’re asking them to do. For example:
“I’ve hit the skids. Can you just listen while I talk it out? I’m not seeking advice or anything else. What I really need is someone to listen.”
The one asked to listen should clarify. For example: “How long? I can give you only five minutes.”
Yep. Honor that. Thank them and dial the next number.
But this time, be more prepared. Add something like, “I don’t know how long it’ll take, but if you just listen, if I’m the only one talking, I’m guessing about ten minutes tops. If that works for you, I’ll set a timer.”
How does it end?
The caller says, “Thanks for your time.” And the one who just listens says how they felt about that experience. Witnessing pain isn’t for everyone.
The key here is honoring both parties.
Please don’t call someone, talk nonstop, and then say “Well, I have to get back to what I was doing.” Remember the first rule? ASK if your friend can just listen. It has to be a mutual experience.
If all goes well, it’s “win-win”. The listener hears a different side of you. You’re exposed, perhaps for the first time. Having shared your vulnerability, the relationship possibly is bonded even more.
So what do you think? Can you just listen?
Till next time,
“Please be kind to everyone you meet, for we all have our hidden sorrows.” ~Tzaddi