What I do for the people in my life is not magic. Here are some things to consider if you want to strengthen your listening skills…
- Try to listen to someone without offering advice or judgments. Your feedback is almost always going to be based only on what you’ve experienced in your life, through your own filters. Your life, your thresholds are never going to be exactly the same as someone else’s.
- Try giving someone your full attention. Make eye contact. Put your phone or other distractions away. Every few minutes, offer a summary of what you hear them saying so that they feel understood.
- Don’t spin whatever a person is saying back on how it relates to you! Sometimes people just need to talk and what they have to say doesn’t relate to you at all.
- Refrain from making statements, but ask a lot of questions! Show interest in helping a person get to the root of their issues.
- If you hear the words, “what should I do,” resist giving an answer. Ask questions instead. The person is strong enough to come to their own conclusions in time. Sometimes they just need to talk it out.
- When you get a person to the point where they are seemingly thinking out loud in front of you, you are doing it right! If they feel comfortable enough to share all the good and bad with you, without fearing your judgments, you are not only being a masterful listener, but a masterful friend!
- Do all of this without expecting a single thing in return.
My Mom and I talked not too long ago about a lot of this. I’ve got the listening thing down to the point where people often break down in front of me! It’s kind of scary. Sometimes it is a total stranger. I’ve said before that I think this is a gift and a calling in life. It is possible to be in the right place at the right time for a reason. God puts us into situations to be an angel for others.
All of that said, I have to remind myself constantly to not get too emotionally involved. For me, it’s been hard to listen and not absorb the pain or anxiety of others. I’ve empathized to the point of making myself depressed or sick. My Mom and my good friend Sarina were ones to remind me to spiritually protect myself when trying to be a counselor for people.
I also realize clearly that sometimes, people are in such a bad way that they will require professional help. People might have years of psychological or chemical issues that are way beyond what I can help them deal with.
So… I offer all this because I think it is possible to help change the lives of others for the better, largely by becoming a better listener. I think we are all going to be called at points in our life to be a rock for others. I’ve been put into unprecedented situations myself the past year or so, where people have really needed me to lean on. But, I do it all with a sense of gratitude and purpose.
I invite all of you to continue to reach out to me whenever you need to, because I would want the same.
I think if someone doesn’t accept you for who you are, and if they don’t love you and want to be around you while you are just being yourself, that there is no way you will ever coexist permanently. So, I’ve come to accept that in my life more and more. I’m just not going to be good enough for some people. Ever.
I long for that kind of acceptance in my life. I don’t think I’ve had it outside of my immediate family and a small handful of very, very close friends, and even that hasn’t been consistent.
I wish my brain worked differently, where I could just be one of those people that didn’t care, but I do, and that’s who I am.