Three Powerful Sentences
When we're sharing our struggles with someone, there's a particular pain that can arise.
It's that pain of someone giving us advice when what we need is to be listened to.
There's a strong human tendency towards fixing and solving. It's hard to be with someone in her pain. Advice, suggestions, attempts to mend what seems broken are a natural response.
It often comes from a good place, a wish to lessen someone's load. But sometimes, counsel is the last thing we need. It can leave us feeling unseen.
So, there are three powerful sentences I like to use:
I have something I want to share. I don't need to be fixed or solved. I just need to be heard.
They give the person we're with permission to listen. And sometimes we need to give each other that. Because listening can seem passive, not helpful enough. But that's only if we conflate listening with not speaking.
There is nothing passive or unhelpful about listening. Listening, holding the space for someone to hear her or himself, is one of the rarer, more beautiful things one human being can offer another.
And if we ourselves are tempted to fix or solve the struggles someone is sharing with us, we can ask, Would it be most helpful for me to offer advice or would it be most helpful for me to listen and be here with you?
The pain of getting advice when we need to be heard is real. But so, too, is the comfort of being fully listened to. Let us be those who ask for listening. And those who offer it.