For some reason I cannot explain, in my younger days a lot of girls used to come and open their hearts out to me. After one or two such sessions they stopped coming. Now I thought to myself – “Wow, I truly must be a great agony aunt. My advice is working and these girls found their peace!” And then years passed. There were similar incidents like this. Women, girls, gal pals would open up to me and I would offer them advice and they stopped talking about their “troubles” after one or two conversations about it. We’d still talk about other stuff but the agony part was kept out of it.
As life happened I found myself going through rough times. I started talking to one or two girls about the stuff I was dealing with and they’d say – “I didn’t have it easy either”; or “Your story pales compared to what I have been through”. That made me feel insignificant, like my problems are not real issues but theirs are. Some of them even started offering advice or said, “Well, there’s nothing you can do about it. You’re stuck with it for life”. Naturally I stopped opening my heart out to them because their responses were not helping but rather making me feel worse.
Lately I realised that what one needs in times of distress is just an ear. No advice, no judgements, no response. Just to be heard. And yes, if they want your advice then choose your words carefully. Best course would be to refrain from giving advice because what you are about to say is generally as a result of your life experiences. It may not always work well with them. So tell her or him everything’s going to be alright, things will get easier soon. I must have done this too a lot of times in the past until I found that all I needed was to be heard without judgements.
Having a conversation with someone who lost a dear one can also be intimidating. Again, what you need to do is just listen. Sometimes we hear people saying – “I know what you feel”, “I know what you’re going through”, “You need to be strong”. Even the strongest person goes through times of vulnerability and it is perfectly okay to feel like that. They don’t need someone telling them they have to be strong. They need to feel what they’re feeling.
You may also hear – “I also went through a miserable time when I lost my _____.” It’s not a ‘Who’s more miserable’ contest? We just need to listen to those who need it.
So the next time someone pours their heart out to you, just listen! Listening is important and difficult because it requires us to open oursleves to another person’s experience and to connect at the greater level.