“I’ve had a bad day at work”.
My husband’s eyes rolled, he checked his watch and looked towards the door as he wondered how long this would take and,more importantly, if this would delay dinner.
As I tried to explain what happened he kept interrupting me to give his opinion or advise me how to ‘fix’ things.
“This is why I can’t talk to you! you won’t listen!”
Often all we need is to feel heard and understood rather than to receive solutions.
This can be quite draining for the listener and they may be quite unsure how to handle this and get a result. So what can we do to get the help we need without going for therapy?
I attended a session recently on ‘Resilience in relationships’ ran by Mark Widdowson @DrMarkWiddowson who put forward a plan for these situations. The plan involves 3 steps for the listener 1) Listen 2) Empathise 3) Support. So as the listener, you know what to do.
For the person talking, the plan is that we 1) Vent 2) Feel supported 3) Resolution.
So to begin, we explain that we first want to spend time without interruption so we can vent over what is on our mind, then secondly have someone acknowledge our hurt before thirdly, we can decide what actions are to be taken.
Another key step to this plan is a time limit for each of the 3 steps, with a 40% 40% 20% split . So for half an hour it would be 12 minutes on listening, 12 minutes on empathy and 6 minutes on supporting. You may think a time limit is wrong but no one can provide their undivided attention at all times, they can however, set aside time to give attention to the other person and this boundary helps both the speaker and the listener to be more focused.
The three steps for the listener involve:
Listening – Listening involves all of you so forget yourself for a while and focus with your whole self. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted and keep suitable eye contact (not staring )
Empathise – Comment on it and ask questions to make them feel you have been listening. Don’t make it all about you. Let it be about them. “Oh no he didn’t?!” “that must have felt bad”
Resolution – When we allow people the space and understanding they need, they can often come up with their own solutions. They have to be ones they are comfortable with.
So why not give this a try when someone needs you to listen to their problems or you need help yourself.
The simple act of listening can often provide all the help people need. Listen and silent are spelled with the same letters. Think about it…..
18-22 June is Researcher Wellbeing week #researchwell and there are many activities that can help you improve your life. Check out our events page. You can spend time cuddling and petting your stress away with Freddie – a gorgeous therapy dog in training! What are you waiting for?