Why fixing it isn’t always the answer
I'm a talker. I like to talk things through. Sometimes I can only get clarity on what I'm thinking by first verbalising it to see if it sounds right to me and makes sense. As a talker, I therefore truly appreciate a good listener.
Despite most of us having a set of ears, good listeners are much rarer than one might think.
It is often a matter of attention — busy people, busy lives. Taking the time to be present, slow down and really listen to another person can feel like too much of a luxury, a waste of precious minutes.
When people do ask for our attention, we also think they are asking for our opinion. We live in a solutions-focused world. Answers to our every question are just a Google search away.
If someone comes to us with an issue, we assume they want us to fix it. And of course, we don't like to see people we care about suffering.
We want to provide an answer to soothe their pain, move them forward. Isn't that the kind thing to do?
Not necessarily. Have they actually asked for our input?
One of the first, and fundamental aspects of coaching training is understanding how listening itself is a powerful helping tool.
Being truly heard can make us feel better, even if the issue still persists.
The trouble with others trying to fix our problems is that the solutions they offer are their solutions; their ideas based on their life, their perception of the world and their agenda.
They jump in with their opinions often before we're finished, cutting us off, hijacking our train of thought, inadvertently switching the attention back to them.
The power of really listening is that it gives the talker space. In this safe, uninterrupted space they are held in the listener's attention.
They have room to explore their thoughts and feelings and to formulate their own solutions; ways forward that make sense for them in their life, choices they are more likely to follow through on and own.
Sometimes when we speak, we are not even looking for solutions. There are experiences, pain and suffering that we need to express, but which have no fix.
Take grief, for instance. There is no easy answer to it although people will often try to offer one, mainly out of their own discomfort in seeing someone else suffer.
The etymology of the word compassion is “together, suffering”. It is not “fixing”. Being together with someone in their suffering, allowing them to experience their feelings and talk through them, simply offering your presence and an open ear is a way we can truly be compassionate.
One of the many benefits of working with a coach is having dedicated time with a good listener. If it could help you, please get in touch!
Good listening is a skill that we can all learn and improve. Next week I will be touching on some practical ways to do just that.
• Julia Pitt is a trained success coach and certified NLP practitioner on the team at Benedict Associates. For further information contact Julia on 705-7488, www.juliapittcoach ing.com