No, this is not about the song, although the melody has been running through my head since I came up with the title. I have written and talked often about the importance of talking when you feel down, when you are feeling lonely, when you feel forgotten, when you feel that no one understands, when you feel pain, when you feel forsaken. It is easy to slip into a shell and hope that these feelings will eventually go away. Very often it is difficult to find someone that will listen.
There is another side to this story. What happens when someone wants to talk to me? How do I react? Do I know how to listen? Do I respond in such a way that the other person comes away from the conversation feeling better? It has been said that the best communicators listen more than they talk. Boy, do I have a lot to learn.
Dr. Ralph Roughten has written some good thoughts on listening. Let me share a few of his them.
“When I ask you to listen to me and you start giving advice
you have not done what I have asked.”
“When I ask you to listen to me and you begin to tell me
why I shouldn’t feel that way, you are trampling on
“When I ask you to listen to me and you feel you have to
do something to solve my problem you have failed me,
strange as that may seem.”
“When you do something for me that I can do for myself,
You contribute to my fear and inadequacy.”
“Listen! All I asked was that you listen – not talk or do.
Just hear me.”
Interesting how those thoughts reflect exactly my feelings when I feel the need to talk. Even more interesting is how I fail so miserably when others want to share with me. It is difficult not to jump in with advice or the age old “I know exactly how you feel”. Not so. I may understand how you feel. I may have had similar experiences but it is really difficult to “know” how someone feels. This is really hard when dealing with kids, your spouse or partner, or with good friends, someone close to you. Someone you think you know well. I know for myself, I always want to try to fix the problem. However, I need to stand back, listen and support. Be a source of strength. With that friend who has concerns and worries about some health issues. With the young couple, excited about being parents, losing the pregnancy in a miscarriage. The colleague who relates to my issues, hears me out, but is seldom given the opportunity to share her story. A long suffering spouse, who has to deal with a husband who is trying to find his way but spends far too much time immersed in negative thinking and rumination.
I often have dark thoughts. Try to make sense of who I am. Try to make sense of why I slip into these dark, sombre moods. I analyse. And the more I analyse the deeper I sink. Often wish I could express myself better. Never understanding why others don’t understand me. Dr. Roughten has a thought that I think relates to a lot of my frustrations.
“But when you accept as a simple fact that I do feel what
I feel, no matter how irrational, then I can quit trying to
convince you and get about the business of
understanding what’s behind this irrational feeling.
And when that’s clear, the answers are obvious
And I don’t need advice.”
So simple yet so difficult. Listen more, understand more, love more. Make it a good one.