We all have problems. Some larger than others, and some seemingly petty. It often starts as a lump in our throat but the longer it stays withheld in us, it travels down and festers until we become sick in our stomach. We need to blurt it out to someone at some point, just so to get it out, and to feel heard, in hopes that perhaps someone will understand our pain. The unfortunate truth of it all is that more often than not we find ourselves in more frustration after telling others because we do not get a desired response. So here are 5 things I personally feel one should NOT do when someone is telling you their sob story.
1. Don’t tell them that it is JUST a small matter.
NOTHING is a small matter, even if it is to you. This is simply because everyone experiences pain differently. Even though you may have experienced much greater pain than another does not make their pain any less painful or any less real. Instead, empathize with them and try to really listen to how they feel about their situation.
2. Don’t tell them that they are being too emotional.
A person may be over emotional and less logical when going through tough situations but that doesn’t give us a right to criticize them and stuff logic back into them. The time for that will come but when going through a difficult situation, allow them to go through all the emotions that they feel and let them get it all out so that it would be much easier for them to process things later. Logic can wait.
3. Don’t tell them what they did wrong.
More often than not when facing a problem they already know what they did wrong that ended them in that particular situation. They don’t need people rubbing salt on their wounds. At this point, listening and empathizing as well as giving assurance to that person would be the best things to do.
4. Don’t try to fix things.
This is probably one of the most commonly heard things when it comes to the art of listening. Some may say that it mostly applies to women but I think it depends more on the individual rather than their gender. When talking about their problems, like I said earlier, one basically wants to just vent their thoughts and feelings about their situation because they need to get it off their chest and for someone to perhaps comfort them. Fixing the problem at this point isn’t the primary focus, though that may come later. Unless the person asks for a solution at that time, assume they don’t want one just yet.
5. Don’t just say OK.
This is perhaps one of the worst responses one could get when ranting out their problems. They just poured their heart and soul out to you and all you have to say is ‘OK’? NO. That is simply not acceptable, and it would only make the person feel worse. What you could do instead is to ask them questions about what they are going through to help them process it. Asking things like, ‘how does that make you feel’, giving them words of assurance or even just a hug (if touch is their love language) would anytime be a better response than ‘OK’.
It perhaps is true that no one can truly understand what you are really going through but listening in the right way can make a person feel understood and assured. But more importantly than that, is that there is a certain empowerment that comes in being heard. It makes a person feel as though what they are going through matters; that THEY matter. And that makes all the difference.