Truly Listening

Photo by Liza Summer on

I don’t know why it surprises me, but I still have so much to learn. Often the stuff I have to learn is not new stuff. It’s not stuff that I’ve never heard about before. It’s the basics: easy things that are hard to follow through on. This past week, it was listening. 


Photo by Craig Adderley on

Yup, listening to others. Easy, right? I do it all the time. But, try listening to someone who is going through a hard time and the listening gets very difficult, very quickly. I have the tendency, that many people have, of trying to help that person I care about, feel better. I want to look on the bright side, and find a solution to their problem. I told myself that I was doing it for them. I was helping them. I was making them feel better. But was my behaviour accomplishing that? Was it true listening?

Photo by Alex Green on

Listening Fail

I realized that what I was doing wasn’t actually listening at all. Instead of validating their painful situation, I was deflecting and “trying to make better” something that I didn’t have any ability to cure. An important part of this is that they didn’t ask me to help them find a solution. They just shared their pain but I didn’t listen.

Photo by Magda Ehlers on

What is true listening?

It’s very uncomfortable to hear someone share painful things. I wasn’t really listening because it was hard for me to hear it. True listening requires validating the other person’s experiences by letting them know that you heard them. Rephrasing what they’ve said indicates that you’ve heard them. And then the hardest part… Shut up and listen some more. 

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Yes, shut up. Don’t offer helpful advice or relate it to when you went through a similar experience. They don’t need to hear it. It’s not about you. Shut up and listen.*

Listening Is The Support

I learned that not listening properly stops people from sharing the painful and tough stuff with you. It’s heartbreaking to realize that my discomfort with their pain may have stopped them from getting more support from me. Ouch! I don’t want to do that to someone. So I’m learning to do the basics. I’m learning to listen.

*Click here for some helpful tips on listening.

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