Thursday, May 3, 2012

Shut Up and Listen

A lot of people tell me a lot of things.  Probably because I tell a lot of people a lot of things.  If you know me personally or even if you’ve just met me once or twice, you will know that I am the kind of person who is extremely easy to get to know.  I am an open book.  Somehow I manage to tell people virtually everything about me: my childhood, my crazy career path, my adorable family, my travels around the world and pretty much every mistake I have ever made (they make for funny stories!) within the space of about 10 minutes.  And that is still with plenty of time for the other person to talk!  Don’t ask me how I do it.  It’s a gift.

Visiting with one of my "besties" while in Australia.

So whether you want to know my deepest, darkest confessions or not, you WILL hear them.  Generally you will hear them related to a nutty story that you wonder if I am making up.  Again, if you’ve known me for more than five minutes, you will know that I am prone to exaggeration.  That being said, my stories are, by and large, mostly true, at least in so far as I can remember.

People like to hear about the mistakes I have made in life.  They like it when I confess to indiscretions across the board of bad behavior and when I talk about my numerous flaws: physical (sturdy, tree trunk legs); emotional (an inability to handle confrontations which results in a lot of avoidance and a lot of people –pleasing); social (enjoying the lime light so much that I could easily host a nationally syndicated talk show, yet being unable to survive in any sort of party setting for much longer than an hour); and emotional (having the incredible near-daily need to hole up in a bathtub for “Leah time”).

Because a lot of people tell me a lot of things, I am often in the position of giving my thoughts or opinions on the matter/crisis at hand.  Here’s what I have learned (and what this blog is really about):  ALWAYS ASK IF THE PERSON WOULD LIKE YOUR OPINION BEFORE YOU GIVE IT.

By and large, people just want you to listen.  They don’t want your opinion.  They want to moan or complain or just be heard.  Life is hard.  Life often sucks.  Problems are plethora.  As people talk through their issues, they often resolve them in their own minds without having to get advice anyway.  That’s what good therapy is all about!  That person you pay a lot of money to really doesn’t need any training at all; they could be fast asleep with their eyes propped open and their head set to nod control and you would come away believing you just had the most fantastic therapy session ever.  It’s not about saying anything.  People solve their own problems, folks.  They come to their own conclusions.  And they will do what they want to do.  No matter what you say.

Being out in nature is one of the best therapies of all.

SO SAY NOTHING.  I rescind my previous comment.  Even if the person says they want your advice, don’t give it.  It could cost you a friendship or you could feel blameworthy for an action that person takes, acting on your advice.  Don’t give it.  No matter what.

Instead, ask, “What do YOU think you should do?”  They will invariably talk at some length, utter a few choice phrases, cry a little more, and come away with an answer to their dilemma that they've thought up all on their own.  (And psychologists go to school for HOW LONG?)

Shut up and listen, folks.  That's all.  Shut up and listen.  

See what a good listener I am?

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