Sometimes We Just Want To Be Heard
One of the phrases I dread the most in my life is, “I want to talk.” But that’s my first mistake, of many. “I want to talk” is wholly different than “we need to talk.” I have always lumped them together. And if I look back on my life, I think I have cross-referenced “a talk” to mean conflict.
I don’t do conflict. Or some would say I don’t do conflict well. Because I can be emotionless and logical and matter-of-fact. To me, this means I do conflict well. I spent close to ten years negotiating prison sentences every day so I learned to take the emotion out of it. Or so I tell myself. Really, I’ve always been able to do this.
But I know that I often miss the point when people want to talk. And it’s selfish of me. And I’d like to stop.
We Don’t Always Want a Solution
We all just want to be heard. As writers that’s literally what we are striving for every day. Reading our work is us being heard. But we forget that when our friends just need someone to hear them. Because we interpret talk as a dialogue. And it isn’t always intended to be that.
The majority of time we think they need our help. But who are we anyway? What do we know? We don’t have any special healing skills? And we always forget that they might just need a friendly ear. Someone to sit and look them in the eyes when they talk and say very little. We need to learn to shut up.
Everyone doesn’t want a solution. Often times they know the right thing to do. And they are going to do it. They just want to get it off their chests and hear themselves say it. Have you ever described a situation and just by doing that, you answered your own questions about it?
Everyone just wants to be heard.
When we forget this, we make their needs about us. Because we all have selfish tendencies. And we are well-intentioned. We think we can add something to their issue. But we need to stop and take a beat and actually ask them if they want our advice. Because they might just want to be heard.
My tendency is to always find a solution. To end the conversation. It’s kind of dickish even though I don’t mean it that way. Someone will come to me with a relationship issue, just to talk. And I’ll say, “They aren’t worth it. Dump them today. What kind of tea are you getting?” That’s not being a good friend. At all.
Or I will make their problems worse by highlighting the things that are hurting them. I don’t do this on purpose, but because I sometimes am low on empathy, I’ll confirm their fears without thinking. At the time, I feel like I am just being honest. But it’s not that. I am trying to solve instead of listen. I am trying to complete the cycle instead of allowing them to just speak and be heard.
The Art of Listening
Another thing I have confused in life is memory versus listening. I have a photographic memory so I can remember virtually anything. Weird stuff. My oldest friends like to play games with the minutia I remember from childhood. But being able to repeat what someone said doesn’t mean I was listening.
The art of listening involves engagement. And caring. And empathy. It’s putting your phone away. It’s not being distracted by the fact that the food is taking a long time. It’s about showing someone you are there for them through eye contact and your facial expression.
A lot of people fancy themselves good listeners. But what they really are doing is hearing. And then looking for an opening to use the tiny word, “I.” I remember when that happened to me. Oh that’s terrible, but I’ve been there and you will be fine. That’s not listening.
I haven’t listened well in my life. I’ve remembered. I’ve heard. But I’ve been a sh*t listener. I’ve been a problem solver, but listening isn’t about response. Or talking. Or us. It’s about them. The people who came to us to be heard. For comfort.
The best gift you can give someone in this technologically distracted world is your full attention.
Open Communication About Communication
If you want to vent, tell someone. Tell them that you don’t want a response. That you want a friendly ear to listen. Because you just want to get it off your chest and hear yourself say it. Because sometimes we just don’t know what to do as a listener.
It’s not always our fault. We aren’t always selfish listeners. We just assume that when people want to talk, they mean they want to have a conversation. But when they have an issue to flesh out, they might not want the back and forth. So ask them.
They may not be used to it, but it might be a welcome surprise. Instead of just responding with “advice,” maybe ask if that’s what they are looking for in the first place. The more you allow someone to talk, the more they may find the answers on their own.
Sometimes We Just Want To Be Heard
It’s as simple as that. When we want to be heard, we don’t need anything other than undivided attention. It’s something we should all try to give, especially those closest to us, more often.