I read a great article the other day by Bob Burg about listening. Listening well is extremely difficult to do when someone close to you has a problem and you believe you have answers, because if you feel this way you’re not really listening. You’re thinking of the answers.
When you believe you know how to help someone escape pain or unhappiness it’s easy to get caught up in trying to direct another person’s life, especially when it’s the life of someone you care about. But how many lives can we live at once? How many different realities can we direct?
Offering our well-meaning solutions can backfire because:
- It serves to rescue them from their feelings and feelings are important
- It protects them from the consequences of their actions
- It deprives them of the learning value and feeling of confidence that comes with solving their problems
- It conveys the message that we believe they can’t handle their life on their own
The only way we can really help is to be willing to be with someone in their pain, listening well enough that they will feel heard and empowered to find their own answers.
This is very challenging. I want to help, to obliterate the person’s pain. I don’t want to be witness to it and yet I need someone to witness my pain when I’m in pain, hearing me well enough that I find my way out. I just need to learn how to give the same respect to the people I care about.
Are you a good listener? How do you keep your solutions to yourself, listen and trust the person will come to their own answers? Are you tempted to insist upon your reality rather than allowing your loved ones to have their own?