It has been said that 90% of “behavior problems” come from young people wanting adults to listen to them. One study reported that the number one request from suicidal teenagers was for adults to listen to them. The medical power of listening has also been proven by various studies.
We all feel better when we feel listened to. And we feel even better when we feel understood. In order to be understood, we must be listened to. Often it is more important to us to feel heard than to actually get what we said we wanted. On the other hand, feeling ignored and misunderstood is literally painful whether we are six or sixty.
As with other emotional needs, the need to be heard is a survival need. We are all interdependent. In other words, many of our basic needs depend on the cooperation of others. But first we must know and communicate our needs. For example, if we are a passenger in a car and we feel unsafe, we must communicate our feelings. If the driver ignores us, our lives may literally be threatened. If we are not heard, we cannot communicate our needs. It is understandable, then, that we feel frustrated or worse when we do not feel heard.
By developing our own listening skills, we can model them to others. They in turn will become better listeners and we will feel heard, understood and respected.
Will you please just listen?
When I ask you to listen and you start giving advice, you have not done what I have asked.
When I ask you to listen and you start telling me why I shouldn’t feel the way I do, you are invalidating my feelings.
When I ask you to listen and you start trying to solve my problem, I feel underestimated and disempowered.
When I ask you to listen and you start telling me what I need to do I feel offended, pressured and controlled.
When I ask you to listen, it does not mean I am helpless. I may be faltering, depressed or discouraged, but I am not helpless.
When I ask you to listen and you do things which I can and need to do for myself, you hurt my self-esteem.
But when you accept the way I feel, then I don’t need to spend time and energy trying to defend myself or convince you, and I can focus on figuring out why I feel the way I feel and what to do about it.
And when I do that, I don’t need advice, just support, trust and encouragement.
Please remember that what you think are “irrational feelings” always make sense if you take time to listen and understand me.