A new friend visited me recently – with masks and properly distanced – and as we sat in my garden she shared a family saga that has been going on for many years. It was obvious to me that she needed to share this with someone who could be an empathetic listener. I sensed that it may have helped my friend to share with me her unhappiness, disappointment and anger over this situation.
While my friend was giving her account, at times I asked a question to make sure I understood what she was conveying, or to validate her feeling. For example, “When he did that, what was your response?” And, “I can see that really upset you and you’re still feeling you were taken advantage of.” Questions and statements like these let my friend know that I am taking in what she’s sharing and that I care about her.
I could have been tempted to respond with a situation of my own that may have had some parallels to that of my friend. To what purpose? As an acknowledgment of understanding my friend’s situation, this might have helped create a bond. However, after she had completed her account and I had summarized what she told me, no more was needed from me. The point was for me to listen to her and for her to feel she was totally listened to and understood.
If we need to be listened to, the time and place to do so is important. In the case I just mentioned, there were just the two of us in a completely private, pleasant setting, where my friend felt at ease to open up about herself. If I want to share something that’s important to me, I need to know I can trust my listener and that they have the time to listen to me. Arranging for an appropriate time and place to do so will make it more likely our conversation will be satisfying to both of us.
It is not often that we find good listeners who can give us not only their ears, but also their hearts. We can be role models for others by listening to them for the deep understanding for which we ourselves yearn.