Living in a day and age that promotes independence and being able to get through ‘anything and everything’ by yourself, it’s OK to realise that sometimes you need some external support. Whether it’s a shoulder to cry on or simply a sounding board to vent what’s on your mind, it’s important to remember that listening, rather than giving advice could be more powerful than you realise. The most important thing to remember is if your mouth is open, you’re not listening. Choose to be a friend, not a teacher.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably gone through a few (ok a lot) of breakups. And no matter how many you face, they still hurt, and hurt badly.
About a decade ago, I was unexpectedly dumped by a guy who in my mind, was going to be husband.
“I just don’t love you”, he said.
Of course being the drama queen I was, I fell to the floor (literally) and started to wail. For days, I couldn’t sleep. Once I even drove to his house and climbed through his bedroom window just to be with him. Quite possibly I coined the term ‘stage 5 clinger’.
While the pain has long passed, the memories of my support network’s actions are still vivid. I can easily separate them into 2 categories:
Category 1: The Cheerers
These make up the majority. These are the friends and family members who hate seeing you hurt, which is a beautiful thing! As such, they say things like “keep your chin up” and “there are other fish in the sea!”.
Category 2: The Listeners
These make up the infinitely small minority, my father being one of them. They do one thing, and they do it well: they listen. Yep, that’s it.
After the dramatic dumping I called my father, expecting him to magically make everything better. As I poured my heart out, I expected quick-fix solutions in return. Annoyed and frustrated, snapped at my dad and said “you’re my dad, make it better!”. Here’s what I got back;
“Squigs, I wish I could make it better for you, but only time can do that, and I’ll be with you to listen every step of the way”.
At the time, I didn’t get it. Heck, I was pissed. But a few days later, it sunk in.
Fact is, giving advice is a natural instinct, because down deep we all want to be saviours! We want to be the ones who magically make everything better.
But to really help someone, you need to put your ego aside and remember that just being there is the most powerful antidote to pain there is.
Here are my top 5 tips to listen, rather than fix:
#1 If your mouth is open, you’re not listening. Keep it shut and don’t be afraid of blocks of silence, as this is where introspection works its magic.
#2 Remove the words “at least” from your vocabulary. Saying “at least you’re still young” is equivalent to a slap in the face when you’re hurting.
#3 Connect. Listen to what they’re saying and try and find something that reminds you of their pain. If you were in their shoes, how would you be feeling?
#4 Don’t push. Sure getting fresh air and going to a party might seem like a good idea at the time, but you can’t push someone to do something they clearly don’t want to do. In time, when they’re ready, they’ll let you know.
#5 Laugh. No, not at them, but don’t be afraid to crack a joke when the time is right. As Charlie Chaplin says, “Laughter is the tonic, the relief, the surcease for pain.”
Dr Katherine xoxoxo
If you’re struggling, please remember than asking for help doesn’t mean you’re weak. Quite the contrary! Lifeline is a safe space to start your journey to feeling like yourself again. Call 13 11 14.
Article written by Dr Katherine and shared on Lorna Jane Active.