How to Listen When Someone You Love is Hurting
When someone you love is hurting and comes to you with their pain, what can you say? You want to make them feel better but you are uncomfortable, you don’t know what to do. Remember these 3 helpful suggestions.
It’s not about you. I am sure that you have heard the analogy that a conversation is like a tennis match. You have to keep the ball going back and forth. This may be true sometimes but I believe that when someone is hurting, they want the ball. What I mean is, it’s not time for you to tell your story. We all do this, we want them to know that we understand what they are going through so we start telling them a story about how we went through something similar. They lost someone, so did you. They have cancer, so did your uncle. They feel depressed, you felt like that when you lost your job. When someone is hurting and opening up to you, let them have the ball.
No judgement. In order for someone to come to you and share their feelings they need to feel like you are a safe place. They don’t want you telling them what they did wrong. If your child comes to you, telling you a story of something that is troubling them don’t lay into them with advice of how they can do better. There will be a time for that but for your advice to be effective they need to feel like you are on their side, have compassion for them, and you understand. When that is established then maybe they will be open to your help.
Keep them talking. It is hard for many people to share their hurts so if they feel like you’re not interested then they will stop sharing. You need to show them that you want to hear what they have to say. Give them your full attention. Don’t look at your phone or away from them. Encourage them to keep sharing by saying things like, “how did that make you feel?” or “tell me more about that”. This will prompt them to keep sharing and help them feel supported.
These three things will allow those you care about to know that you are ready to listen. We all need to be heard, especially when we are hurting. If you can put yourself aside, you opinions aside and your time aside to listen then they will know that you really care about them. It is a gift you can give.
Written by Lisa Strong