I used to think I was an good listener.
But what does “good listener” even mean? What does it take to be a good listener? More than just ears, I’m assuming, since we all have them.
I love to listen to people. I’m interested in the lives of others. But with time, I’ve realized my method of listening isn’t always what is helpful.
I am a problem solver by nature. If you tell me your problems, I’m going to think of strategy that I believe might help you overcome your problem. I mean, if it is fixable, why not fix it? Why don’t we pull out a piece of paper and write out a plan to get you feeling better? Something that will heal your relationships or boost your self esteem.
Wait, not helpful? What else am I supposed to do? If I’m not trying to solve the problems you tell me about, I feel like I’m being useless.
It took a lot of conversations with my husband, Terry, to realize what kind of listener he needed. It wasn’t the problem solver he needed. All I really needed to say was simple- “I know it’s got to be hard.” “This is a really sucky situation.” “You deserve to be treated better.” “Your feelings are valid.” Or maybe say nothing at all, just be there.
It’s taken me some time to realize what a friend wants from when it comes allowing them to vent. Particularly with Terry, who I’ve always just wanted to patch things up for. One day he finally told me that he really just needed me to agree with him and let him voice his feelings without judgement or analyzing.
Recently I remembered a book that I absolutely loved in high school, Just Listen by Sarah Dessen. I remembered how I highlighted the pages because there were so many great quotes in it. Here are a few of my favorites, that make me reflect back on what it means to be a good listener:
A good listener waits.
“This is the problem with dealing with someone who is actually a good listener. They don’t jump in on your sentences, saving you from actually finishing them, or talk over you, allowing what you do manage to get out to be lost or altered in transit. Instead, they wait, so you have to keep going.”
― Sarah Dessen,
A good listener hears and understands.
“There was no short answer to this; like so much else, it was a long story. But what really makes any story real is knowing someone will hear it. And understand.”
― Sarah Dessen,
A good listener provides a shoulder to lean on.
“I was beginning to understand, though, that there were no such things as absolutes, not in life or in people. Like Owen said, it was day by day, if not moment by moment. All you could do was take on as much weight as you can bear. And if you’re lucky, there’s someone close enough by to shoulder the rest.”
― Sarah Dessen,
Being a good listener is probably one of the most important qualities it takes to be a good friend. We need sounding boards and people who will let us air out some thoughts. We need people to just listen.
What qualities do you think are important when it comes to being a good listener? What does the person who you vent to the most offer that others cannot?
Today’s post is joining the thinking out loud party.