By Fiona Lee
Talking about things doesn’t have to be a major event. It doesn’t have to be an intervention, a moment of crisis where it can’t be avoided any longer, or during an emotional break where things can’t be held in anymore. There are always people who will listen, but in saying that we should all remember how to listen. How to really listen.
We will continue to tell the people around us that we will always be there to talk, be there for them when they’re troubled and support them through whatever comes up, but what does that really mean?
What it doesn’t mean is fixing their problems for them. As much as we’d like to lift weights off of our loved ones’ shoulders and give them immediate relief, we can’t always take the worries away. Some things don’t have an obvious or an immediate solution, and sometimes situations are just not so great, and they might stay that way for a while.
We all know the feeling of carrying a burden. The weight of worries can be overwhelming sometimes, or they can just be an uncomfortable itch at the back of our minds. It’s nice when you can sit back, take a breather, and speak with ease with a friend, a family member, or even a fellow co-worker; no matter what the topic may be. There’s comfort in being heard. Solutions are rarely the immediate concern and maybe all we really need is a big rant with a good friend.
It takes patience and it can be difficult sometimes, but what we can do is stand by them, and listen to what they have to say. Whether it’s big or small, built up over time or a stray, irritating thought, everything is worth hearing. In doing that we are not only supporting them, but we’re learning more about them as a person, and therefore learning how to be there for them in the future too. Once we drop the anxiety of ‘what’s the best thing to say to make all this go away,’ we can sit back and try to truly hear them, learn from them and give them the strength to cope with inevitable difficulties.
With different experiences and perspectives mixing together, life can get complicated, and it would be a bit ridiculous to expect yourself to completely understand what others are going through all the time. It would also be unhelpful to assume people’s feelings based on how you might feel in their shoes. Listen to what they have to say. Accept their feelings and support them through it without judgment or fear. This comes into the whole ‘my problems aren’t real problems’ issue; even seeing the discomfort in the eyes of a friend when you start venting about something seemingly small can also discourage someone from sharing at all.
It’s not always clear what to say to someone struggling, but it doesn’t have to be. Support does not mean taking the problems away. Listening, comforting, and letting someone feel heard, cared for and less lonely is all that’s needed. People are not always in the position to advise, but they absolutely can support. It can be as simple as that.
Image: Jaume Ventura [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons