Featured Card: I'll Just Listen
When someone we care about is struggling, our inclination is to want to understand it and fix it. We start asking questions, When did this start? How does it feel? Why do you think this has happened? And we list a plethora of ways they could potentially feel better, offering all the advice we can think of.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
There is a time and place for this support. But what we should be rushing to do, is to just listen.
This is the sentiment behind this card. If you want to tell someone that you're there for them, unconditionally, and that you'll listen to them, then send this card. You'l be telling them that you don't expect them to explain themselves, to justify their feelings, to make sense of their emotions or to present an eloquent and substantiated story. Because you know that that doesn't exist. And that's okay.
People often struggle in difficult times because they feel overwhelmed by their emotions. They struggle because they feel frightened and uneasy and things have stopped making sense to them. So expecting them to be able to answer a barrage of how or why questions is too much. We need to support people, despite having all the information, just because we know they need it.
Another trap we can fall into is problem solving. It's so easy to do, but it can be more harmful than we realise. As I outline in my Support Guide, when we problem solve, we run the risk of invalidating the severity of someone's struggles and implying that the situation is their fault. Even if this is the opposite of what you think, it's still the likely outcome.
We need to be really careful when offering advice. A general rule of thumb is to remember that even if you take two people who have been through the exact same thing, those two people will experience it in different ways and still feel misunderstood. So if you have never been through the same challenges as the person you're supporting, chances are, your advice won't always be appreciated. It sounds callous, but it's not. It's simply that humans all feel things differently and we're not always great at taking advice.
A lot of people are afraid to open up and talk about their struggles because they're worried that people will respond with how and why questions and advice. But you can just listen. And maybe if someone knew that you were willing to do just that, you may just save a life.