Have you ever felt the need to talk and been disappointed? I know I have. One particular friend can cut a phone call short without any notice, and yet she is a wonderful listener and one of my closest confidantes. I have learned that when I need her to listen, I must ask.

All of us experience difficult times that leave us anxious, stressed, worried, or dispirited. Sometimes we find relief with a walk or personal time to reflect on our problems and sift through solutions. But, many people need outside support and that’s where you and I come in. Just like my confidante, we, too, can be listeners. Our active listening allows others to:

  1. Articulate their fears.
  2. Acknowledge and share their thoughts.
  3. Clarify their feelings.
  4. Come to terms with their issues.
  5. Devise solutions to their problems.
  6. Be heard.
  7. Feel less isolated.

We can provide our friends and loved ones with a valuable gift - our full attention. While listening carefully, we can give voice to their concerns and in doing so, lessen their burden. We must keep in mind when listening that our friends and loved ones do not want advice; their quest is an outlet and understanding.

When we need a listener, who can we tap? A friend, clergy member, colleague, neighbor or family member who we find trustworthy and caring. But, we cannot expect a potential listener to understand that we have needs unless we communicate them.  

It pays to be upfront when you feel the need to talk and want someone to listen. Connect with your potential listener by email or phone. Begin by sharing that you have been going through a difficult time or wrestling with an issue and trying to resolve it on your own. Add that you are not coping well and the issue has you stressed. Be specific that you could use a good listener and ask if they could do that for you. You might suggest whether to meet for coffee or chat on the phone. 

Everyone needs an ear at some time or other. In the future, you can be a listener and have a chance to pay it forward.  


Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now at a reduced price for e-books for "Illness & Death," "Suicide," "Miscarriage," "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store.

Image via Nashville Public Library

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