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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

Go Deeper Not Wider

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We’re in a friendship crisis. Three quarters of Americans are not truly satisfied with their friendships. Paradoxically, in an age of Facebook and always-on connections, a growing body of research is proving what many of us already feel deep in our gut: we’re actually lonelier and more isolated than ever before.  How can this be?

Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert says that the number one predictor of happiness is the strength of your bonds with your friends and family. It’s not about the number of people you associate with. It’s about the quality of those relationships.  But can you do both? Can you enjoy quality relationships with lots of people? The hard truth is no.  That’s why we need to go deeper, not wider.  It’s great to “know” a lot of people and to maintain a vibrant network.  Remember, however, that it’s not about how many people you know but more about the ones you are deeply bonded with.  And there doesn’t need to be that many!  Keep this in mind…

You might be a superhero (I like to think I am but others may disagree), however, in order to have deep friendships you have to let your Kryptonite flag fly to those who matter most.  Psychologist and relationship expert Beverley Fehr says that the primary hallmark of friendship is intimate self-disclosure—or showing vulnerability.  Showing vulnerability is how we get closer with people and requires gradually revealing more intimate information about ourselves. This gradual reveal helps increase trust, support and loyalty— therefore, going deeper, not wider.   

Written by Lisa Smith

SMFT Lisa #1 (1)