by Dorothy Denne
I listened to a young friend the other day. She was hurting, and I was trying to think of what I could say to help. What was there I could possibly do to make her pain go away?
I realized that I was doing it. I was listening.
After our session, I went searching in my files for an old clipping that I remembered putting away for possible future use. That future had arrived and I’m glad I was able to remember the advice.
I found the column which I share with you now. Maybe it will come in handy for you,too. It is called “Listen.”
When I ask you to listen to me and you start giving advice, you have not done what I asked.
When I ask you to listen to me and you begin to tell me why I shouldn’t feel that way, you are trampling on my feelings.
When I ask you to listen to me and you feel you have to do something to solve my problem, you have failed me, strange as that may seem.
Listen! All I asked was that you listen, not to talk or do — just hear me. Advice is cheap; a few cents will get you both “Miss Manners” and “Dr. K” in the same newspaper.
And, I can do for myself. I’m not helpless. Maybe discouraged and faltering, but not helpless.
When you do something for me that I can and need to do for myself, you contribute to my fear and inadequacy.
But, when you accept as a simple fact that I do feel what I feel, no matter how irrational, then I can quit trying to convince you and get about the business of understanding what’s behind this irrational feeling. And when that’s clear, the answers are obvious and I don’t need advice.
Irrational feelings make sense when we understand what’s behind them. Perhaps that’s why prayer works, sometimes, for some people — because God is mute, and He doesn’t give advice or try to fix things. He just listens and lets you work it out for yourself.
So, please listen and just hear me. And, if you want to talk, wait a minute for your turn and I’ll listen to you.