Remember that time when you feel completely overwhelmed by some situation in your life, a fight, some family upheaval, employment issue, health or emotional trauma? You really want to let some steam off, and vent your heart and soul out. You expect some sort of relief, a sense of direction or at least a sympathetic listener. In fact you feel so stressed that you actually end up pouring out in front of a friend, colleague or family member only to have them make a scoring match of who’s got the better sob story.
Sounds familiar? Probably been there either at the receiving end or the volunteering, “Here’s my list of grievances,” bit. If you venture to talk about an ailment, they want you to know how they braved a deadly disease and didn’t complain even a wee bit, if it’s not their own case, they decide to tell you about some other family member or acquaintance or at times even a public figure who out shined you by his or her patience and iron will. You seek comfort and get to hear how small your issue really is, how ungrateful your stance is and how exponentially better equipped they are in sorting their life out.
And if you are a woman then you get treated to a tirade of long drawn life experiences of all those hardworking mothers and daughters of yesteryears who endured much and said very little. You are reminded that they lived in an age where there were no diapers and instant food and no gadgets that made life easier. If you have a job then you get pointers on how much easier it would be if you resorted to being a homebody. Your stress levels are then attributed to your lazy, selfish lifestyle and an excess of free time at hand that you have deliberately misused in stressing out about useless things.
Do we really have the right to assume that somebody’s response to a given circumstance is uncalled for? Isn’t it unfair to judge others on the basis of our individual responses?
Can we not for that brief moment hit the pause button on our own grievances and just patiently fine tune those darling implements we call ears and LISTEN. I use the term ‘We’ because I have been guilty of doing this too. Sometimes all we intend to do is provide the comforting notion, “You are not the only one going through a rough patch, I’ve been there too and you will sail through the way I did.” But we forget that all of us have a completely unique emotional quotient and the dynamics of our reactions are all very different. We are not an assembly line production and respond differently to the same pressure tests.
I might not be able to cope with the same situation the way you do, my internal wiring is specific to me only. I do not mean to say that we shouldn’t learn from other people’s experiences. We should and we must. We have support groups to allow people to learn from others who have gone through the same trying situations in life. But people who join these groups have decided that they want to hear about others who went through the same ordeal. Someone who just seeks you out to lighten his or her emotional baggage, needs only that much and a little empathy perhaps.
Sometimes being a good listener is all it takes to add a little sunshine to someone’s bad day. We need to listen with a patient, and empathizing ear and without the intention to judge. The more attention you give, the more attuned your mind becomes to the speaker’s emotional cues and this really helps you to know when and how to respond. If you do not really have any useful advice or words of comfort to offer then perhaps the act of listening calmly itself might be the greatest help.
You might be going through a bigger and more trying ordeal, but you don’t really have to talk about it at that moment. Someone trusts you enough to seek you in a time of need and that’s a real blessing and a big compliment to you. Hope we can all work on our emotional intelligence and perk up our ears for some sincere listening next time.
Have you been through something like this? Is there an experience that you care to share? Our little experiences, and what we learn through them at times shine out a tiny beacon for someone else.