Christian, women

Being a Good Listener May Be Harder Than You Think

I rushed into the hospital elevator at 7pm, finally going home to rest. A young woman jumped in with me at the last second. She was having a panic attack. The doors closed.

She looked at me with a wild look in her eyes and said, “I’ve got to get out of this @#$%&! hospital! I need a cigarette!” I knew she was in bad shape. I didn’t know what might happen next, but I was filled with compassion.

As we quickly walked out through the lobby into the cold night air, she poured out her story.

“My man is in the hospital. My grandma has cancer. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t know how I’m getting home. My baby needs me. @#$%&!”

She talked nonstop as her shaking hands lit up a cigarette in the freezing cold. As I talked to her I found out that she had walked 2 hours to get to the hospital and was going to have to walk 2 hours to get home. I offered to take her home. We talked non-stop during the 15-minute drive to her trailer park.

When I pulled to a stop, I asked if I could pray for her. She said yes, but I became so emotional I could barely speak. She gave me a big hug and said, “I’m so glad I met someone nice!”

I’ll never forget her, a young woman named Montana who needed a friend. She said she would pray for me, too. We said goodbye and I never saw her again.

It made me feel good to know God had used me to help someone. But there have also been times that I’ve tried to encourage someone and I wondered if I did more harm than good. Encouraging someone who is grieving or experiencing extreme stress can be tricky. This has happened to me recently, too.

“If you try too hard to calm them down or hold them back, you’ll run the risk of trivializing their complaints and making them feel worse.”

Gregorio Billikopf

Consider these tips for being genuinely supportive from the website DON’T LOSE HOPE:

– Give that person your full and undivided attention. Do not allow yourself to be distracted by anything AT All.

– Pay attention to your body language. You should come across as being still, calm, focused, with an open body posture, and good steady eye contact (but don’t stare!)

–  Say very little. Your job is to listen. Not to comment. Not to give advice. Your only job is to listen to this person.

– Don’t ask extraneous questions. Don’t change the topic. Don’t offer platitudes.

– Allow for brief periods of silence. This is a heavy topic. Don’t rush the speaker. Sit with the silence.  

– Don’t talk about your, or anyone else’s, experience. The focus right now is the speaker’s experience.

– Notice and point out any strengths in the speaker. This sends the powerful message that they’re going to survive.

We never know when an opportunity to extend God’s love might be right around the corner. I’ve discovered that I need to know how to be a good listener (and it isn’t always as easy as I thought).

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

Galatians 6:2 ESV

With Love, Cindy

Do you want to know more about Jesus? Click this link to learn more: Who Is Jesus?  

Sources: Don’t Lose Hope website, Why People Don’t Talk About Their Trauma

1st Photo by Jopwell from Pexels

2nd Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels

16 thoughts on “Being a Good Listener May Be Harder Than You Think”

  1. Great listening tips, Cindy. I would add, Offer validation of their feelings (ie, “It sounds like this is really important to you, and that it scares you.”). As a listener, we may not have any idea of what’s really going on, but the least we can to is let them know someone cares, and that’s it’s okay to feel the way they feel.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Cindy, there is someone in my personal circle that I need to practice this more with. I do pretty well with it at work and interacting with community members and their problems. I just need to be more graceful with someone closer to me and not try to relieve their feelings quickly.
    Thank you for the suggestions.

    Liked by 1 person

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