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The Importance of Just Listening

I wrote this earlier on my other blog, because I wanted to encourage anyone who can, to do so:

As a Straight, White, Male – Why Now is a Great Time to Attend Employee Resource Group Meetings

I encourage you to go read it, but I wanted to also share it here because the main idea is something that really relates to things we talk about around here quite often, and that is about listening.

The best thing about attending those meetings is the opportunity right now that we all have to simply login to the online meeting, and listen. No one is expecting you to fix racism or sexism, for example, but they really want a place where they care be heard. I love that our workplace provides that, and as difficult as listening can be sometimes, I have definitely learned a ton.

Which reminded me, once again, of the power of just listening when someone is sharing their story. It’s not easy. When we hear someone we care about talking about their struggles, it’s just instinct that makes us want to help, to “fix” the situation, and we have no business doing that. When someone comes to me to talk about depression, anxiety, or their struggles with healing from childhood trauma, these are things that I understand, things I’ve been through myself, and the one thing I have to remind myself at that very moment is that no one could fix it for me either. The things that worked for me, were not quick fixes. They were learned lessons over time and through out my lifetime really. They continue today.

The people who helped me, and continue to help me, are the ones who will ask me questions and then just listen. They want to hear my story, even though they can’t fix it. They know that they can help by just giving me a space to tell my story, without worrying about the need to fight off their attempts at fixing something that may or may not be relevant at all to my situation. (i.e. I’m glad your cousin felt better after a walk in the forest, but that’s not what is happening here!)

So please, just listen. Make the space around you, even if it’s virtual, a safe space for your friends and loved ones to tell their stories. Find small ways to help, if you can, but also know that by just listening, just sitting with our stories, you are already helping so much.

And, if your employer offers these kinds of spaces, go and listen.

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