Have you ever heard that saying about how you have two ears and one mouth so you should listen twice as much as you talk? Yeah, cheesy. You hear everyone use this from pastors to motivational speakers. I always felt it was a bit gimmicky. Sure, there’s truth to it, but still, when someone says it I feel the need to fight the inevitable eye roll. Maybe it’s because I feel like we’re looking for some excuse or other reason to justify something that we should do simply because we want to be a nice person.
I’ve been in Southern California and meeting up with friends and family I haven’t seen in a while. It’s always nice to see people and talk about what’s going on in life that’s not on social media. When I started meeting people I realized very quickly that I could just talk and talk about my life. I’ve become better at this, but it’s still a natural tendency. This time around I’ve really made the effort to ask questions and listen more. And it’s been very rewarding.
I’ve come to find out that even though people’s lives did go on just fine while I was gone, they don’t often have people in their life who will listen to them. There must be something therapeutic, to some degree, about being able to tell a friend about your life when they give you their full attention. Better yet, you can tell them your problems and struggles and they simply listen attentively and empathetically. It’s happened a few times that I listen, ask a few questions, and then listen some more and after a while I can almost see a change come over them. It’s as if a weight has fallen from their consciousness. I don’t credit myself with some great skills in communication, I just learned that it’s nice to listen to people and not talk about yourself all the time. And a surprising amount of people need that.
When I first became aware that I needed to do more listening, I thought that meant that I also needed to fix whatever their problems were. I would make suggestions and try to think of ways to solve their crappy situation. However, that’s not really what people need. They don’t actually need someone to brainstorm with them on how to solve their life’s problems. Sometimes people only need a caring person to listen, not criticize, not disagree, not give opinions, but just listen. The interesting thing is that when they truly get that support, they often find within themselves whatever they needed to overcome the situation.