When Listening Is Better Than Giving Advice

by Bill Brenner on March 15, 2016

Sometimes when I’m going through a rough patch or just having a ridiculously annoying day, I need to vent. To do so productively and thus feel better, I need a good listener around.

Unfortunately, people these days don’t want to listen. They have a big megaphone that is the Internet, and they can’t bear not to use it. So they take to social media and give advice.

Mood music:

In saying that, I realize two things:

  1. To expect people to be good listeners for you, it’s important that you be a good listener in return. I often fall short there.
  2. Once in a while, whether I like it or not, I need advice to work through problems, especially when I’m being an asshole.

Even to give good advice, though, you still have to be a good listener.

Some of my friends are going through a rough time and detail their pain on Facebook and Twitter. They’ve noted that they just want someone to listen to them and that they have no interest in advice. Sometimes they need the advice and should¬†suck it up. But more often than not, the advice-giving friends are not being helpful. In some cases they make things worse.

I get a lot of advice that is painfully obvious. I’d relax more if I meditated and prayed (I already do both). I’d have more energy if I exercised more (duh). I’d fight less with family if I simply realized that family is all that matters. (When people shell out that gem, I can’t help but wonder what planet they’re from, since all families argue.)

There are usually reasons people don’t do the obviously beneficial stuff friends and family advocate when giving advice. Sometimes a person’s stress level is so bad that there’s no strength left for a workout or meditation. And if we’re talking about addicts, there’s the fact that addicts have a compulsion to do what’s bad for them even though they’re well aware of the potential consequences. But being listened to allows the sufferer to get things off their chest, helping them to fight another day.

It’s worth¬†remembering that next time someone wants to cry on your shoulder.

Man uses an ear trumpet

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