If, like me, you’re addicted to fixing folks, but want to become a better listener, try this perspective shift:
Just assume they’re gonna stay the same! Or pretend they just cannot hear your advice. Or pretend you haven’t understood their problem.
Sound gloomy? Fatalistic? It’s not! Here’s how it works.
If you’ve ever spent time with someone who was soon to die, you will remember how attentively you adhered to the fleeting moment, how you treasured their every word. You were mindful of their impermanence, compassion had finally gained the upper hand in your heart, and you knew you couldn’t alter certain things. You accepted the situation as it was. And since the moment was fleeting, you pressed your mind around the event, almost as though you were trying to “memorize” it, to save it, to receive every ounce of their being.
That’s how being unable to change things made you a better listener.
The Tale Wagged
I have a slight advantage regarding this topic, because I’m a hospice volunteer. Families with a dying person at their center have been teaching me how to sit with the best teacher of all. I am not acquiring this skill quickly: I persist in trying to fix things. I may still try to talk people out of their fear, cheer people out of their grief.
But once in a while, my efforts wear out. I cave in, and let the grief and loss and terror just have its way. I am Answerless, I show up anyway, and always find that no one really expected “answers” at all. They taught me that being answerless was nothing to hide; if I just let the sorrow or hurt or loss roll through me, the people have often been somehow comforted.
It was never them I wanted to fix at all. It was me. (Thank you, Joe Hart.)
Yeah, but how do we put it into practice?
Okay, I’ll tell you ahead of time: This one is not easy. That is, we do not take to it naturally. I can feel guilty if I’m not trying to fix things.
Just get ready to take in someone’s hurt, not shielding yourself, not trying to fix anything, letting it kill you. What it kills, you need to get rid of. Let it go. You will be blessed, lightened, returned to the still place. Only thus are others comforted.