Please Listen…

It seems obvious, but it never fails to surprise me what an enormous relief it is to be listened to. I meet people from all walks of life whose initial distress can be overwhelming. At the end of our first session they are often greatly relieved and reassured too. They have had the empowering experience of having the space to tell their story and be listened to. I wonder that this appears to be such a precious gift, both to give and receive. Our lives are so busy that we can struggle to make time to really listen to, not talk, about  what matters most even with those closest to us.

I came across this poem many years ago and used it at the beginning of courses designed to train new counsellors:-

When I ask you to listen to me

and you start giving me advice,

you have not done what I asked.

When I ask you to listen to me

and you begin to tell me why I shouldn’t feel that way,

you are trampling on my feelings.

When I ask you to listen to me

and you feel you have to do something

to solve my problem,

you have failed me, strange as that may seem.

Listen!

All I ask is that you listen.

Don’t talk or do – just hear me.

Advice is cheap.- 20 cents will get you both

Dear Abby and Billy Graham in the same newspaper.

And I can do for myself; I am not helpless.

Maybe discouraged and faltering , but not helpless.

When you do something for me that I can

and need to do for myself,

you contribute to my fear and inadequacy.

But when you accept as a simple fact

that I feel what I feel, no matter how irrational,

then I can stop trying to convince you

and get about the business of understanding

what’s behind the irrational feeling.

And when that’s clear, the answers are obvious

and I don’t need advice.

Irrational feelings make sense

when we understand what’s behind them.

Perhaps that’s why prayer works – sometimes-

for some people, because God is mute.

and he doesn’t give advice or try to fix things.

God just listens and lets you work it out for yourself

So please listen, and just hear me.

And if you want to talk,

wait a minute for your turn,

and I will listen to you.