More thoughts on listening

I have been thinking more about yesterdays post about why we’re so bad at listening and the comments from PensiveAspie and AliceYaxley and I think I have got a little further in my muddled thinking.

First, it’s not that offering ideas for solutions is in itself wrong, it’s more about the timing. I thought of an analogy. A parent see’s a child fall and start to cry. The first thing you do is run and pick them up and cuddle them, comfort them and wait for the crying to subside a little. Then you look at any wounds, wipe up any blood, apply plasters etc. Only after all that do you talk to them about what they might have been doing before they fell that may have been less than wise and how they might change their behaviour to stop future accidents. It’s not really helpful if you find yourself as a parent running over to a crying hurt child and immediately telling them off because they shouldn’t have been hopping on top of a fence in the first place.

Well, in my mind, someone suffering from a crisis problem, be it stress, anxiety, job loss, bereavement or similar crisis, needs to be treated with the same three steps (not that I’m any particular kind of expert and I’m sure there are exceptions). First some empathy, some comfort, letting them know that you’re aware of their pain, maybe a hug (depending on what sort of relationship you have) and maybe listening to them talk without judging (if they can articulate). Secondly immediate help to stop things getting worse, maybe they need distracting from how they’re feeling, maybe there’s an issue that needs to be addressed such as a phone call to be made, either by someone else or they need talking through it, maybe some exercise, a cup of milky tea, again whatever seems appropriate. Then at a later point when they’re thoughts are calmer, that is when to think about strategies to deal with the underlying issues that caused the crisis and that are arising from it.

And I am thinking about help when you’re feeling rough, as opposed to someone venting, letting off steam about something that’s annoying them to defuse their emotions.

I also want to point out that these are thoughts in general, from my private life, and not meant as a subtle dig at people who’ve been leaving comments. Although I’m sure some of the same principles apply to comments I’m certainly no expert in blogging etiquette. I know I find it hard not to talk a lot about myself when leaving a blog comment (I’m quite a verbose kind of person as you can probably tell), but I do make an effort to at least start with an aknowledgment if someone is feeling troubled. And doubtless I get it wrong sometimes too, but then we’re all human.