My hands trembled as I gripped my phone.
I called my friend. I was blowing a problem way out of proportion.
I desperately needed her advice and wisdom.
“I need to vent. Can you talk?”
“Sure,” she said.
The words poured out of me.
When I’d finished, I let out a sigh.
My friend started to say something. But then she paused.
"Wait -- I'm not going to give you advice on this," she said.
I felt a flutter in my chest.
Wasn’t she supposed to tell me what to do?!
“I’m just going to listen.”
My eyes widened. I gripped the phone.
But, I took a breath and spoke again.
And this time, I spoke about what I was feeling. I dug deep. I slowed down.
I curled up on the corner of my sofa with a soft blanket.
My friend didn’t interrupt. She let me talk.
My jaw relaxed. I started laughing throughout our convo.
Not a fake laugh.
But, a laugh that indicated I was gaining what I needed -- perspective.
And with each sentence, I surprised myself with what I was feeling about the situation.
You know when you need to let the words pour out? To know what you're feeling? It was like that.
And by the time I was done, I got up. I stretched my arms out in a yawn. I felt a wave of calm rush over me.
The "OMG, this is such a big deal" moment had passed. And I hung up with my friend, thanking her for listening.
I went to get ready for work. A small, relaxed smile on my face.
Turns out, I didn’t need advice after all. I needed to let it all air out.
No advice. No quick fixes.
You’ve probably had that experience. You walk away from a talk with a friend.
You might not have the specific answer or tool kit. But you feel seen, heard and loved.
You feel like a weight’s been lifted off you.
You know The Golden Girls? It’s why they spent so much time talking around the kitchen table.
And eating cheesecake. And making fun of Rose. Poor Rose.
I know it's SO tempting to want to give or receive advice. I'm guilty of this. Like, very, very guilty.
"Just tell me what to do!" I've said to my dad 1,000 times.
Sure, there’s a time and place for advice. i.e. How to file your tax extension and how to change a tire.
But, so many times I want to jump to "fix-it" mode with friends.
And family. Especially family.
But when you pause and listen -- you give the biggest gift of all. The power of your presence.
Try it out as an experiment. See what happens.
“What’re you feeling?”
“What’s that like for you?”
Listen (no speaking required) – this is my favorite
It might take getting used to. I know it did for me. But, you have the power to change someone's day.
When you “simply” listen you’re giving people space to be, which in this fast-paced world – is priceless.
You give them your heart and attention -- what matters most.
From my heart to yours,
Devon McLeod, LCSW
PS My friend did such a good job of listening, I actually don't remember what my initial "problem" was haha ;) Otherwise, I would've told you. Listening FTW!