I haven’t really had much to write about here over the past couple of weeks, so I thought I’d take some time to express my feelings and discuss my own experiences.
There are times when all we should do is listen.
There are times when words of encouragement, or sympathy, are not welcome.
There are times when relaying your own experiences is not appropriate.
We have all been guilty of overlooking these simple rules, at sometime or another.
It’s just part of human nature to want to comfort.
To want to help others see that they are not alone.
To share our own experiences.
But, we need to learn how to just listen.
I’ll give you an example…
Before Christmas, Huib and I had a disagreement. I was upset about a broken promise. I had tried, unsuccessfully, to explain my frustrations. When he left for work, I wouldn’t give him a hug or say goodbye. Later that morning, he e-mailed me to apologize and validated my feelings.
In the afternoon, I was talking to a friend via MSN. I told him about the disagreement and how I was shocked to have received an apology. Huib has never been one to say sorry, so when I received the e-mail, I forgave him immediately. My friend asked for details surrounding the argument, I told him everything. I wanted someone to listen. I wanted someone to be happy for me. I wanted to share the fact that I had finally heard (well via print) the word ‘sorry’ from Huib.
I had chosen the wrong person.
Instead of just listening, my friend proceeded to tell me about how I shouldn’t have gotten upset with Huib. He told me that I was being unreasonable to expect that any of the promises could have come true. He didn’t understand why Huib had to say ‘sorry’.
Maybe it’s because my friend is a guy. Or maybe it’s just the way he views relationships. But, his response is not what I needed.
Here’s a more serious example…
When Phoenix began refusing to eat, I again chose to talk to my friend from the above example. I told him how I was trying to do anything possible to get Phoenix eating. I told him that I worried this was a sign of things to come.
My friend wasn’t supportive. My friend wasn’t helpful.
He told me that his guide dog trainers had said, a dog won’t starve itself. He told me they had instructed him to only give the dog one choice, and if the dog chose not to eat, then to wait until the next mealtime to try again.
He neglected to take into consideration, the fact that Phoenix was almost 15 years old. He neglected the fact that I was sharing my fears with him. He just thought about the fact that Phoenix was a dog, and that he wasn’t eating.
Never once did he think about me. Not once did he think about Phoenix.
When Phoenix passed away, and I told my friend…
He simply told me that Phoenix was old, and had lived a long life..
This was not helpful. This was not supportive.
I needed a friend.
I needed a shoulder to cry on.
I didn’t need someone to point out the obvious.
I didn’t need someone to push aside my experiences.
When someone comes to you and shares their story, stop and think. Does this person need advice? Does this person need to hear my thoughts? How can I best meet their needs?
Often, the answer to these questions, is to just listen.