Just Listening vs Sharing

Does this video resonate with you at all? It made me laugh out loud — I assume because I’ve done my share of listening in my life. Sometimes it has helped people with problems, and sometimes it has simply encouraged them to play the victim and not do anything to change what’s bothering them.

The kind of listening I like best is the non-therapeutic kind, when we share our experiences. When something is bothering me it helps me to tell someone about it, but I don’t want either sympathy or advice. Expressing my feelings and connecting with someone, preferably someone who has experienced something similar, frees me to get curious and start looking at my options. (If no one is available I connect with myself by writing in my journal.) What helps the most is talking to someone who has experienced something similar to what I’m going through. Again, advice usually annoys me, but I appreciate information and company.

So I don’t really relate to either the guy or the gal in the video. What about you? What do you find helpful?

Thanks to Mike, Evan, Cathy, tammy, bikehikebabe, Rummuser and Dixie for commenting on last weekโ€™s post.
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22 Responses to Just Listening vs Sharing

  1. Evan says:

    “Most things that are therapeutic aren’t therapy” – a gestalt therapist.

    We seek completion and expression and contact. Hence feeling better for sharing and the other person listening.

    In relationships where the people know each other and one asks for advice I do think that not giving it can be a cop-out (this tends to go against one of the ‘shoulds’ of therapy: dont’ give advice).

  2. Jean says:

    I agree about giving advice when it is asked for. I was thinking mainly of people who jump in with proposed solutions without understanding the situation. (I’ve seen a lot of that.) And the main thing about giving asked-for advice is to not be upset when the person doesn’t take it. Realize your input helped anyway. You’re a friend giving possible ideas, not an expert on the other person’s life.

    It sounds like you, too, like expression and connection. I wonder how many people aren’t like us.

    I tend to shy away from the word therapy because it sounds as if something is wrong with the person that needs healing. I think more in terms of our being creative, developing human beings. It’s a slight but important difference to me.

  3. Evan says:

    Yes, that was the point made by the ‘third force therapists’ post-WW2. It has largely been lost as psychology in general and psychotherapy in particular has been re-medicalised (under the nonsense title of ‘evidence based therapy’ – it is not considered polite to question what counts as evidence).

  4. Jean says:

    I just finished spending a couple of hours with tech support. The problem is now solved and I was very patient until the end, when I had to go through a few hoops to set up a payment method — just in case I wanted to make supposed future purchases. I didn’t have a choice. I briefly ranted to Andy, then settled for a few “Yay, Jean’s!” for being so patient. It helped having him there.

    The thing that probably helps the most is commitment and practice. “Stay curious and open to life. No matter what happens keep learning and growing. Find what you love to do and find a way to share it with others.” That and the Traits of Stress-Hardy, Resilient People, etc. It’s not about doing things perfectly, but it’s a direction to go towards. As I understand it, your commitment is to being authentic. I imagine that works about the same for you?

  5. bikehikebabe says:

    LOL I haven’t seen a video funnier than that one. ๐Ÿ˜€

    I learned that lesson from Lydia (my psychologist daughter) early on. She said “I don’t want you to fix it. I just want you to listen.

  6. Evan says:

    Hi Jean, I’m not sure. For me something authentic is nourishing (even if it is difficult and unpleasant) whereas the fake doesn’t cut it.

    For me authenticity certainly embraces commitment and practise, learning and growing.

  7. Jean says:

    Yes, sometimes we just want to share our feelings to let them go. Obviously that wouldn’t help the gal in the video. If she were real she would be a sad case needing professional help, but as it is I agree — one of the funniest videos I’ve ever seen.

  8. Rummuser says:

    Like you, I am of the give and take kind. I do have people very close to me with who I can openly share and it always helps. My blogging helps too. My age somehow has made me more of a listener to some young people, mostly friends of my son, who are unable to relate to their own parents. I have ended up being a mentor to them. Carrying that burden is tiring sometimes, but , it is very satisfying when they solve their problems just using me as a sounding board.

  9. tammyj says:

    i’m always glad i’m late to the party. because i love reading everybody’s comments!
    i didn’t really laugh til then end and then i did. i laughed!!!
    i am not the deepest pond. i like a line from crocodile Dundee when she asked what he thought about psychiatrists. he’d apparently just met a lady who went to one.
    crocodile dundee said…
    “i dunno. we don’t have’em in the outback. wally knows everybody’s business. you got a problem? you tell wally. wally tells the whole town. no more problem.”
    and it occurs to me on your other post… i TOLD you how to FIX your culvert problems… instead of listening! LOLOL.
    oh dear. no hope. i’m a try to fixer instead of a good listener.
    now i have another thing to work on. aaaggghhh.

  10. Jean says:

    “iโ€™m a try to fixer instead of a good listener. now i have another thing to work on. aaaggghhh.”

    Not at all! I read your comment about rocks and looked up how to protect culverts with rocks. I’m waiting for Andy to come home to see what he has to say. My guess is what he’s doing to protect the roads up there is more appropriate to our situation, but after I ask him I’ll describe in more detail his use of ditches, catch basins, and culverts. I didn’t think anyone was interested in the details so left them out in my post.

    My posts are about sharing and lifelong learning. I want conversation, not just people listening to me. So thanks for continuing the discussion. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Jean says:

    As I’ve mentioned before, I did a lot of one-sided listening in earlier years. I do that a lot more selectively now. It was rewarding, and it was time to move on.

  12. Ursula says:

    Strong tobacco your post, Jean. You say “When something is bothering me it helps me to tell someone about it, but I donโ€™t want either sympathy or advice.” Well, that’s where you and I disagree. I want sympathy and I most certainly do want advice. Even if I don’t take it. Why on earth bother someone with your problems if you DO NOT want their advice?

    As you may know I went through the trauma of my life, with my sister, a few years ago. I cried and I cried. I shouted. I went ballistic. I pleased. I begged. For insight. Nothing more: Just insight into what made her do what she did. A disaster. Three years in I opened up and my doctor (general practitioner – not a shrink) listened to me for an hour (normally you’ll only get ten minutes). He listened. Interjecting every so often. With relevant questions. It was the turning point for me.

    He also booked me in with a counselor. Never ever in my life have I had a more empty experience. The counselor listened ok. Never uttered a word. I might as well gone to the park and talked to a dog. Or found a cat.

    To be fair: His silent listening (!) as I was voicing my grievances ALOUD did help – in an odd way. Other than that: Sitting in a chair not even answering one little question like what did he before (becoming a counselor): Nice work if you can get it. Utter bull.

    So, yes, Jean, we are looking for different things in life. Unlike you I want people to engage. Which I suppose I have just done. I don’t mean to be disparaging, your answer, no doubt being something along your favourite lines: “Whatever works for you.” A total cop out in terms of taking responsibility for each other.

    Sorry about the above. But it does work for me.


  13. Ursula says:

    PS Editor’s note: That should have been ‘pleaded’ not pleased.


  14. Jean says:

    No big surprise, right? We humans come in all sorts of sizes, shapes, and temperaments. That’s why I think we’re so fascinating. Do you disagree that we’re all a bunch of nuts?

  15. Evan says:

    Hi Ursula,

    I have done some training in counselling. So I want you to know that I entirely agree.

    There comes a point where not doing ‘advice giving’ becomes a cop-out. It (usually) comes after the point of please-give-me-advice so I can go-away-and-not-do-it and blame-you-because-it-doesn’t-work. (That should all be hyphenated but I didn’t want to give WordPress a heart attack.) This is often a part of the early stage of counselling. Though some people never go through it – they want to know what to do. These people get advice try things and reflect on what does and doesn’t work and why. These people are often keen to understand the theory and read books and so on. It sounds like you are one of these people.

  16. Jean says:

    I have friends that would probably say,

    I like to dramatize my feelings. And I want an appreciative audience. I want to be heard! That’s what makes me feel better. To heck with reading, learning, changing myself. Just an appreciative audience, thank you.

    It works for them.

  17. Evan says:

    It does. And it is revealing of the needs of persons – for contact, meaning and so on.

  18. Jean says:

    I don’t think “contact, meaning” is the issue. Let’s face it, sometimes it’s just fun to have an audience, to be the center of attention. Nothing wrong with that if you can do it.

  19. Ursula says:

    Evan, thank you for your reply and the interest you take.

    As to the counselor I was referring to: I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t able to build a level of trust by answering one or two questions of mine as to his persona. You know the irony? One of the few things he said that I seem to be curious as to other people and their motivation. Really? Wow! Can’t beat that, can you, coming from someone who bloody pours their soul out to?

    Jean, you know: People like you make me want to weep. How can you say “… fun to have an audience, to be the center of attention”? If and when I am hurting then, yes, I do expect to be the center of attention of whoever I entrust my feelings to. And when someone else is hurting then, yes, I will give them my full attention and feel honoured that they entrust themselves to me.

    Life is NOT theatre.


  20. Jean says:

    I wasn’t talking about you, I was talking about friends of mine who have a different interactive style. And, in fact, it’s something I’ve indulged in at times too. Once when things were going crazy at work Andy was sweet enough to listen for weeks. It lifted my spirits until one night he said, “You’re really letting this get to you, aren’t you?” Oh, oh. He was tired of listening, so it was time to stop. I never will forget how nicely he handled it.

    Again, one size doesn’t fit all.

  21. bikehikebabe says:

    I got an unrelated email from Jean: “…free-association writing works for me. It always listens and never interrupts. ๐Ÿ™‚

    so right on. i think this is what tammy does

  22. bikehikebabe says:

    correction so right on i think this is what tammy does

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