Listen

One of my favorites, and something I picked up while leading family education groups at Cumberland Heights Foundation:

Please, just listen. When I ask you to listen to me, and you start giving 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 asked was that you listen, not talk, or do… just hear. Advice is cheap: twenty-five cents will get you both dear Abby and Billy Graham in the same newspaper, and I can do that myself. I’m 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 do feel, no matter how irrational, then I can quit trying to convince you and get about the business of understanding what’s behind this 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.

Please listen and just hear me, and if you want to talk, wait a minute for your turn, and I’ll listen to you.

© Copyright 1979 by Ray Houghton, M.D.
From Teen Times, Nov/Dec 1979

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