The power of lis­ten­ing

Let's Talk - - CONTENT -

Alot of peo­ple spec­u­late about how ‘easy’ my job as a psy­chother­a­pist is. On the sur­face it may look like a lot of nod­ding and not much else. Lots of peo­ple as­sume that it’s about giv­ing ad­vice and ‘fix­ing’ peo­ple. Some even think you just sit there and lis­ten, and any­one could do it.

How­ever, lis­ten­ing - I mean real lis­ten­ing, ac­tive lis­ten­ing, the kind that is the most pow­er­ful - is a skill which is not easy to mas­ter.

When lis­ten­ing to other peo­ple’s prob­lems, we all have a ten­dency to rush in to re­late our own ver­sion of their sto­ries; or give ad­vice; or pla­cate, which is all well and good but not the best way to make peo­ple feel heard and un­der­stood. It is very dif­fi­cult to qui­etly sit and just lis­ten.

The younger gen­er­a­tion are par­tic­u­lar suf­fer­ers of the ‘not lis­tened to’.

Ask any teenager if their par­ents un­der­stand or lis­ten to them and 90% will say not at all! They are sur­rounded by adults - par­ents, teach­ers, sib­lings, fam­ily mem­bers - who all want to give ad­vice, guide, di­rect, rep­ri­mand, crit­i­cise, when re­ally all they need is to be lis­tened to... re­ally lis­tened to... and heard.

In re­la­tion­ships, of­ten the woman will want a moan about a friend, or work or a prob­lem, and the man (as men are nat­u­ral fix­ers) will leap in with ad­vice on how to deal with it. How­ever, she does not nec­es­sar­ily need a fix (if she did she would ask), she just wants to be heard and un­der­stood.

A nod and a sym­pa­thetic “Gosh, how frus­trat­ing for you. Do you want a cup of tea?” and a hug would suf­fice! In­stead what usu­ally hap­pens is the man gives lots of (good) ad­vice, which she doesn’t take, and then he re­fuses to lis­ten fur­ther be­cause he told her what to do about it and she did noth­ing! So how can we lis­ten bet­ter? Firstly, ac­quire a men­tal shelf on which to put your own opin­ions; words of ad­vice; your own ex­pe­ri­ences etc, rather than voic­ing them. This is about the other per­son, not you.

Se­condly, imag­ine an in­vis­i­ble zip­ping up of your mouth. Lis­ten­ing is not speak­ing! Lis­ten­ing is just that, say­ing noth­ing un­til you are sure that the other per­son has fin­ished what they are say­ing.

Thirdly, try to put your­self in their shoes ... how do you imag­ine they are feel­ing in the sit­u­a­tion they are de­scrib­ing? Then say it: “That sounds re­ally frus­trat­ing/ hurt­ful/painful for you” or “That sounds like hard work/a night­mare”. Then ap­ply the zip again. Let them re­spond and do not give your ver­sion or ad­vice un­less they ask for it.

Fourthly, try not to pass judge­ment, they are de­scrib­ing events from their frame of ref­er­ence, not yours.

It feels as it feels to them, which maybe dif­fer­ent from any re­ac­tion you may have. We are all dif­fer­ent and have dif­fer­ent tol­er­ance lev­els.

I would ask that you just try it and see what hap­pens. That un­com­mu­nica­tive teen may well open up to you more than they ever have. Your part­ner may feel very grate­ful that you un­der­stand them.

The hard­est part of all of the above is keep­ing your opin­ions, view­points and ex­pe­ri­ences to your­self. It’s best to say noth­ing than to ex­press any of that.

Just LIS­TEN qui­etly, re­flect what you think it is they are feel­ing ... then make them a cuppa.

You won’t be­lieve the dif­fer­ence this makes . . . if you can do it!

Coun­sel­lor Amanda Jayne has some im­por­tant ad­vice to share . . . but you’ll have to lis­ten care­fully.

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