Relationships

How to Be a Better Listener

Frances Ha movie

Confession: I want to be a good listener — after all, “attention is the rarest and purest kind of generosity,” said philosopher Simone Weil. But sometimes I feel like I have advice that’s really good and can’t help spitting it out. Or I get stumped on what to say. So, I turned to my friend Lina Perl, a clinical psychologist, who is one of the warmest people I know. Here’s her brilliant guidance…


1. The magical bullet phrase: ‘I’m so glad you told me.’
Sometimes in therapy, I’ll have clients who talk about something for five sessions, and I’m like, this doesn’t seem like a big problem, and literally in session five, they’ll say, ‘Oh, I’m having an affair with my best friend’s husband.’ And there’s a part of my brain that’s like, WHAAAAT?! But I say, ‘I’m so glad that you felt comfortable enough to tell me.’ If you take a moment to say this, you’ll immediately put people at ease. It opens the doors for the person to communicate more, and it also gives you a beat, especially if you’re feeling a little shocked.

2. Name the emotion.
Naming the emotion is extremely useful for kids (which is the context where I learned it), but it’s just as important for adults. If your child is angrily saying, ‘Ugh, I hate my brother!’, there may be an instinct to shut that down. But the first thing is to name how they’re feeling. If you say, ‘Wow, you’re really angry.’ They’ll be like, ‘YES!!!! That’s it!’ You will see someone relax instantly. People sometimes think that by naming it they’re going to make it worse. But that’s not the way it works. The person will feel relieved and seen, and that’s what they really want from a listener.

3. Be open and curious.
There are two kinds of questions: curious and judgmental. For example, if someone tells you that their boss screamed at them this morning, one question might be, ‘What did you do?’ The judgement is there. Instead, be open and curious. You might ask, ‘Oh my gosh, what happened? How did you feel?’ You want to make a space for this person to talk and be vulnerable. ‘What do you hope will happen? What are you afraid might happen?’

Sometimes I think, if I were writing a novel, what would I want to know about this character? What are they thinking? When have they felt this way before? You’re genuinely trying to learn more about them.

4. Repeat things back.
It’s 100% helpful to repeat things back. I’ll say, ‘I think I understand what you’re saying, but I want to be sure.’ You want to open the door to being wrong. ‘I think you were hurt when so-and-so said this to you, and it made you want to walk out of the room.’ And maybe the person will say, yes! Or maybe they’ll say, I actually felt more angry than hurt.

5. Resist the urge to problem solve.
While listening, both men and women try to problem solve way too often. What it conveys to the person, in an unconscious way, is that ‘I can’t tolerate whatever you’re feeling right now.’

If your partner comes home from work and says, ‘I’m freaking out, I lost a big account,’ one response could be, ‘Well, how can you get it back?’ But instead, ask how that person is feeling. ‘Oh, that sounds so stressful. What was it like being at work all day worrying about that? Do you need a hug?’ They want to know that you’ll be here, even if they never get the business back and are a big loser! Sometimes people want help problem solving, but FIRST let them know, however they feel is totally reasonable and you want to hear about it.

There’s a hilarious Chris Rock clip, where his wife is venting, and his reply to her is, ‘I told you that b*tch was crazy.’ That’s what people want to hear! Validated! Sometimes my husband and I will be talking, and he’ll randomly say, ‘I told you that b*tch was crazy,’ even if it’s not related to our conversation.

And it’s funny because the more curious you can be with people, the more authentic and likable they become. I’m always amazed by how fascinating my clients are. It’s not some act of charity to listen to people — it makes all your conversations better!

Thank you so much, Lina!

P.S. How to write a condolence note, and a trick for worriers.

(Photo from Frances Ha.)

  1. carrissa says...

    This is really helpful because I like to call myself a good listener, but sometimes I need a reminder on what I should and shouldn’t be doing. I also showed this post to my mom because she is totally the person to go straight into problem solve mode and sometimes it really bugs me.

  2. I am so grateful for this post, at this time, with what’s going on in my life. A little reality check for me to be more present in the moment rather than trying to sweep things up and move on to the next task at hand.

  3. Courtney says...

    More posts like this!!!

  4. Mrs D says...

    Oh I needed these timely reminders! Thank you. Lately I’ve been a bit of a “steam roller” and heavy on the advice rather than just acknowledging and LISTENING. Aware and onwards!

  5. Love this post! You reminded me to follow-up with what a friend told me yesterday!

  6. J. says...

    I love this post so much– thank you for sharing and writing, Joanna. I agree with the commenter below who wrote that reading your blog is like talking to a best friend!

    I have spent a LOT of time over the past few years working on becoming a better listener– still have a long way to go, but some small things that have worked well!

    1) I say this all the time to my team at work– give undivided to get undivided. I don’t even bring my phone or laptop into meetings any more to try to show that blatantly, and will sit down and say “you have my undivided attention.” It feels silly naming that sometimes, but I find that people so rarely get truly undivided attention anymore from more than a handful of people that it seems like such a gift (especially at work).
    2) I read this on Cup of Jo YEARS ago (maybe in a post from Jenny…??? Or a post on motherhood advice?) but “Start at the beginning…” is such a good way to listen to someone, even if you don’t know what story you’re about to hear!
    3) [more work-related] Help other people “listen” to you better by naming what you’re looking for… for example: “I’m pretty sure I know what I want to do but I’d love to get your thumbs up before I move forward,” vs. “I have a pretty good idea, but I’d like you to help me see any blind spots and hear what you would change,” vs. “I’m a bit stuck between two options and would love your advice and opinions” are three different things. I work in a male-dominated field, and often, I’ve observed myself–and other women– say “I’m not sure what to do” or “I’d love your thoughts” when really they’re looking for a green light/reassurance that their instincts or correct. This has helped me TREMENDOUSLY when people jump in and try to solve things when I really just wanted someone to listen, and I hope/think is different from venting (which also has a time & place!) because I’m upfront naming specifically what would be most helpful.
    4) My best guy friend is an absolutely wonderful listener. His questions are so thoughtful, he pays attention so closely, and he never, ever makes me feel judged or small. I asked him the other day how he became such a good listener and how he learned to be so patient and distinguish between when I wanted someone to show me empathy and listen vs. when I wanted his sometimes tough love advice, and he said: “I don’t know, I guess I watched you do it to me.” It was such a simple comment, but he went on to explain that he had noticed how good it felt when I would say “thank you for sharing” and “tell me more”/”what else?”/”go on.” I still have a long way to go, but I think it’s a beautiful thing to think that we can ALL teach each other to be better listeners–leading to us ourselves feeling more heard, seen, and understood–simply by working on being better listeners ourselves and mirroring the things that make us feel so heard (of which there is so much gold in this comment section!). I’ve thought about it so much that now whenever I walk away from a conversation with a friend where he/she really listened to me, I’ll try to make note of all the questions they asked or things they said so I can practice and use them next time.

    Thank you for this post again! I’m so grateful that there is a space in the world where this many people share this much knowledge and love and share such determined, careful, loving focus on something so important.

  7. Naydeline Mejia says...

    This is a lovely post. Thank you for sharing!

  8. What a wonderful post! It’s getting harder for us to be good listeners these days with all of the distractions of technology. Just listening and affirming are such great lessons.

  9. Wendela says...

    This is wonderful. Thanks for this post!

  10. Elisa says...

    I needed to hear this again, combined with the right tools to overcome those exact issues. Often, all you get is a “What not to do”-list. So, thank you so much for enabling me to pause, rethink and talk less about myself! One other reader commented how much they learn from this blog and how much it motivates them to be a better person. Not only them. :) Thank you!

  11. Erin says...

    I have a really bad habit. When I should be just listening, I always have the urge to share a similar experience from my own life. I hate it! I am so conscious of it too. I always catch myself doing it, and get very awkward mid-share. Working on it! Although I just realized that my whole comment is me doing this very thing. Ahhhh!

    • Sonja says...

      Oh. So you’re like a person? Yeah, me too. It’s the WORST.

    • Anne says...

      So good you are aware that you do this because it really IS the worst. I have friend who does this all the time. Every time you want to share something he always has to relate a similar experience – which is MUCH WORSE than yours. Makes you feel your problems are not even worth mentioning.
      Wait – did I just do the same thing…?

    • KW says...

      I am guilty of this too, but absolutely hate when other people do it. Ha! I think the reason for doing it is to show you have an understanding of what the other person is feeling (like, “I get it! I’ve been there too!”), but whenever it’s done to me I end up feeling completely dismissed. And when it happens repeatedly in the space of one conversation, I just shut down. It’s especially frustrating when the person tells their story and how they felt about it and just assumes you felt the same way, but never even asks.

      A particular friend comes to mind as this is her M.O. no matter what problem, anecdote, etc. I am sharing. I was chronically ill for 7+ years and every time I mentioned what a struggle it was, she’d immediately say “Oh I know. When we were dealing with [her son’s] issue…” Her son had a benign cyst removed and it took a few months to heal. HUH?

    • Erin says...

      Erin, I had to triple check that it wasn’t me (also Erin) who had written this comment.

    • Caitlin says...

      Ugh, I struggle with this SO much. My goal is always to show that I can relate or empathize, but I’ve come to realize recently how much I end up taking over the conversation. My fiance takes it very personally and I haven’t figured out how to stop myself yet often until I’m already in the middle of it. These tips are so needed.

  12. Loved this post! Very inspiring :)

  13. This is such a great article!

  14. Kelly says...

    Everyone should go read “There’s No Good Card for This” by Kelsey Crowe and Emily McDowell. Man. We all can get a little better at how to be a good friend to someone in hard times. I am reading it after personally experiencing lack of support through a hard thing, and learning so many good tools.

    • Christine says...

      I’m sorry you didn’t have support recently, that can be so hard. Hugs and hope you’re doing better. Good job using that negative experience to better your own skills.

  15. Monica says...

    Joanna, this piece is so good! I was wondering if I can translate it into Chinese and share with my friends? Thanks!

  16. Joy Bela says...

    Now that I’m training to become a therapist, I spend ALL DAY every day thinking about the appropriate therapeutic response to a conversation. Since I’m so new to this field, being with clients I am using a lot of brain energy trying to figure out what the appropriate response is. So as someone is talking I’m thinking, “ok this person is saying this but they’re meaning that and my role is to help illuminate that for them but how do I do that?!” I have so much respect for therapists now. And it also means that when I’m with my girlfriends, I am so so happy to just listen and not worry about what to say next. It’s a treat! Even if they’re like, “Wait a minute what would Joy therapist say?” I’m always like “I dont know she’s on her lunch break” lol

    • Agnes says...

      Haha Joy!! I love it! I am a therapist and those training years were HARD. I’m 10 years into practice now and you know what.. there is NO SHAME in having no immediate, perfect response. I don’t know what modality you’re training in, but for me psychodynamically, I’m thinking about so many angles of the person and what they’re saying and how I’M feeling, and what that tells me about how THEY’RE feeling.. it definitely comes more easily with practice but for me, most of the time, validation and more interest leads to more questions I have that help them come to the answer themselves. Not me ‘telling them’. I also prefer the term ‘interest’ over ‘curiosity,’ which could seem a little distant and curtain-twitchy. ‘Interest’ conveys more of a benign and non-invasive way of being – my modality sees it that way, anyway. Hope that makes sense.. I’m sure you’ll be an amazing therapist!

  17. Kelly says...

    Simone Weil also believed attention was a virtue that needed cultivated, and that everything that made you better at paying attention prepared you for prayer. We read On Gravity and Grace in my intro philosophy class in college, and it was so so lovely.

  18. Jackie says...

    Really great piece. I think a part of me, for the last number of years, has wanted to be judgmental – for some reason, I needed to be. Maybe because I have felt insecure and it made me feel better to act like I was above or better than the person experiencing something. I feel, right now, reading this piece, that I don’t want to be that person anymore. I need love and support and I’m imperfect and I need that to be okay. So of course I need to give that love and support to others in my life. Thank you for giving me a clarion moment.

    • Sara says...

      Jackie what a self aware, poised for transition comment. I recognize part of myself in what you said too. BRAVA on recognizing who you desire to be and thank you for sharing your insight.

    • rach says...

      so good jackie

  19. Sarah says...

    Thank you for these wonderful tips. My partner is the best listener I have ever met, and it has really inspired me to slow down and not go into problem-solver mode (which can be hard – I’m a lawyer). I recognized a lot of the way he listens in these suggestions, and I am emailing this to myself to come back to often! GREAT post, thank you!!

  20. Megan says...

    Bah! My husband also randomly quotes that Chris Rock line when Im venting. :)

    • Vanessa says...

      Lol me too!! 😂

  21. Naima says...

    I get so much from this blog. I honestly feel like it is helping me be a better person! Thank you, Joanna and team.

    • Jasna says...

      Literally my thought, too!

    • Sasha L says...

      Same!! It’s a goal to be a better listened and I appreciate these tops so much.

      Also, I love the comments section because I’m always being challenged to see things differently, engage my empathy, find a way to understand something new, hear those I disagree with, with greater openness. And my heart is frequently broken by the pain, vulnerability, hardships shared here. I think it’s all leading me to be a better person. So grateful for this help.

    • Robin says...

      Amen! Saving this one. I am working on it, but (despite early training as a volunteer therapist!) I am much more of a talker than a listener. I’m transitioning to more of a leadership role at work, and have two small kids – listening is where I need to be at. Thank you, as always!!

    • Natalie says...

      Same! When I’m in a hard spot (or, you know, am at Trader Joe’s and need a hack for dinner) I literally go back and read posts from years ago that I’ve filed in my brain. This one’s a keeper.

    • Caitlin says...

      Couldn’t agree more. This blog feels like the safest, brightest, wisest, kindest spot on the internet for me, and what a GIFT that is. Bookmarking this one to read over and over. Thank you Joanna (and team!!)!!

  22. Such great tips.. especially about resisting the urge to problem solve. I think we all just need to be heard sometimes, and once that’s out and the catharsis is over then we move on to problem solving.

  23. kiki says...

    i dunno…I feel like if someone tried to start “naming my emotions” and “telling me how they hear i feel” I’d get more angry. It’s almost like they are trying to stay cold and removed from the situation rather than just being human and responding in an empathetic way. Like they are trying to “out think” the situation and be “super clever”…it belittled the person trying to express their emotions. I can see how it works in a phycologist / patient relationships…but try that with your family and friends?? You’d come off as “holier than thou” I’m skeptical to say the least. :) But, love the conversation and train of thought!!

    • Liz says...

      Yes. There is a fine line! It drives me insane when my husband uses his calm “therapy voice” with me. He’s not actually a therapist, BTW; he’s an attorney!

    • Hettie says...

      I use the “name the emotion” thing A LOT with the high school students I teach and with my own 7 year old and have found it’s a powerful tool for keeping kids talking when they have every instinct to shut down.

      But I hear you about it seeming patronizing to adults. So I use a slightly different version. When I’m with someone who’s expressing negative feelings about a situation, I often respond “that sounds so frustrating” and it usually lets them know “I’m here to listen to you vent or get this off your chest.” The nice thing about it is that “frustrating” can apply to situations of anger/sadness/annoyance that are big or small and it’s really about giving the person space to keep talking, rather than diagnosing their feelings or anything.

    • kristina says...

      try it in a low-stress/low-stakes situation and see how it goes. in my experience it is really empathetic in practice — it shows that the other person is paying attention to YOU and not to what they think you’re saying or want you to be saying/feeling.

    • gracemarie says...

      Yea I hate it when people repeat my words back to me. It makes it seem like they weren’t paying attention the whole time!? And it can feel super patronizing between family or friends.

    • E says...

      I see both sides. My husband is a social worker and sometimes in the heat of conflict I’ll say “STOP social working me!” haha not mature but it feels good to get it out.

    • Michelle says...

      I’ve just recently started doing the “name the emotion” thing with my 4 year old and it works like a charm. But I read that it can be so frustrating when someone uses a calm voice when you’re upset so it’s more helpful if you mirror their emotion. (Obviously this is more in the context of kids!) So I’ll yell at her YOU’RE SO MAD AT ME RIGHT NOW! and it’s instantly calming. Seems funny and weird in the moment but it works!

    • vero says...

      This skepticism reminds me of my own reaction to therapeutic communication techniques. Kiki, you’re not alone! I’m studying to be a nurse and one of my instructors demonstrated how she would “give recognition” to a distressed patient. I was horrified! I vowed to never be so condescending or patronizing.

      But then I was having a really bad week and this instructor saw me in the bathroom. She recognized that I didn’t look well and she told me so (!). I started crying. I can’t even remember if I told her what was wrong, but I remember that I felt I could. It was revelatory.

      Now I try to use this and other therapeutic techniques with my patients as well as friends and family. It’s a tool that rests in my pocket. I believe it shows people that I’m available to them, even if it’s only to hand them a tissue while they ugly cry in public.

    • Lydia says...

      I think it’s about the way you do it. The super deliberate, carefully worded “I hear you and you’re feeling frustrated” works well with kids and in a therapy session but I agree that doesn’t fit well into an everyday conversation with friends and family. But I think you can take the idea and fit it into the way you actually talk to those people. Like when a friend is venting about a frustrating thing that happened at work I often say “ughh that’s so frustrating.” It’s both a normal empathetic response but it does name the emotion and it tells the person that I’m paying attention to what they’re saying and recognize it as a frustrating experience and empathize with that. I don’t think it comes across as cold and removed when you do it in that way along with these other tips like asking curious questions and not problem solving. Something like “ughh that’s so frustrating. Then what did you do?” is a normal response that lets people feel heard.

  24. Sarah says...

    Naming the emotion is a big one for me! In therapy sessions, but also in discussions with my husband, it has helped big time. Sometimes my husband (who is more of an empath than me) will see that I’m hurt by a situation, try to comfort me, and I’ll be like: I’m not hurt, I’m MAD! Can’t you see that?! Don’t you even know me? And then I think: wait, am I?? What am I mad about? (…being embarrassed or shamed, or generally having my feelings hurt. Oh.) And having a couple of those conversations makes me realize that it’s okay to be hurt and vulnerable, and really opens up the space for me to process big thoughts and emotions.

  25. peg says...

    Wow. This is really beautiful. Thank you for commenting…so well written. xx

  26. Julie says...

    My dad is a psychiatrist and a completely brilliant listener. People always ask my sister and me if we ever felt like we were being analyzed growing up (Answer: Not that we were aware of). His main refrain would be to tell us, “It’s natural to feel that way”…
    Angry with mum? Natural.
    Sad about not getting invited to the party? That’s natural.
    Guilty about how you behaved? Anxious about work? Scared about the state of the world?… “It’s very natural to feel that way.”
    Somehow it is so bizarrely and instantly comforting that we use it with our friends too (and they know it comes from him!).

    • Neha says...

      I’m having a stressful time at work, or in any case, I am stressed about work at the moment. And just reading that it is natural to feel that way was most comforting! Thanks!!

    • Julie says...

      SO glad!

    • C says...

      Thank you. Very calming. And Brilliant!

  27. Loren says...

    This is a wonderful post. I once went to a parenting workshop given by Susan Nason, the niece of one of the authors of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk, and she suggested telling the child what you see when he is acting out. “Oh! You are having too much fun on the playground to want to stop, and now I’m telling you you have to come off the swing because it’s time to go home, and that makes you mad!” The next day I started incorporating that strategy into my occupational therapy treatments and my life got infinitely easier: not only were the kids able to shift gears when their feelings were acknowledged, our relationships got so much deeper, stronger and sweeter. Susan always tells people, We’re not here to change your child’s behavior. We’re here to make sure that the umbilical cord of love between you and your child pulses strongly. { I also recommend to parents that when they attempt a parenting strategy like punishment, time outs, removal of privileges or confiscating toys, to ask themselves if doing so will improve or harm their relationship with their child. }

  28. Robin says...

    I follow the advice of one of my Cree teachers: to listen with your whole being. I practice this in my work and it’s incredible what you can pick up by being fully present but also checking in to see what the other person’s body language is like, their tone of voice, etc. It also asks that I reflect on my own listening process.

    • gfy says...

      love this, thank you.

    • Terry says...

      Thank you for sharing. Listening is an active, not passive process.

  29. Nina says...

    I had something exciting happen once and was dancing around happily (well not literally dancing but you know what I mean) at a temporary job and one of the attorneys I worked for said “tell me about that” and put down the papers he was working on and gave me his full attention. Before that I had always seen him as rather aloof and VOOM my opinion changed. Focus, The words. It all made my news, and me, feel SO IMPORTANT. Since then I’ve always tried to give the same courtesy and attention to others in the same way.

  30. Hazle says...

    Sometimes it’s fine to not know what to say, and you can just say, “I don’t know what to say.” Obviously tone is key (my piano teacher used to say it like, “This is so bad I can’t even begin to fix it” – NOT LIKE THAT!) but it can be the most appropriate thing sometimes. I had tea with a neighbour just after her husband had suddenly died, and she told me all about how it happened, and truly, I did not know what to say – so I told her that. (And then, “Thank you for telling me.”) It was 100% better than anything ‘comforting’ I might have tried to come up with.

  31. Sara says...

    As a child, I was always told that I was too sensitive. When I cried, it was the wrong reaction. When I was angry, it was the wrong reaction. I can’t tell you how many years it’s taken for me to un-learn the impulse that whatever I’m feeling is wrong. As a result, I am constantly validating and helping my children see that whatever their reaction/feeling/emotion is at the time is okay – it feels good to name it, own it, and figure out what to do next, even if the thing to do next is just sit with their feelings for a bit.
    All this just to say, that this was a helpful list of ways to be a better listener and a better human being. XOXO.

    • Moxieville says...

      So true Sara. To constantly edit or mute your emotions because someone makes you feel bad or guilty for having them or expressing to is a huge burden to carry through life. It’s bound to take a toll. Good on you for taking care of yourself and your children to take a stance against the shamers.

    • Sara says...

      Moxieville, your comment made me cry. Much gratitude and love for your kind words.

  32. Eliza says...

    “Think of someone as a character in a novel” that is so helpful!!!! I always worry that I don’t ask the right question or don’t have a way to get more insight into what someone is saying. Thank you!

    I also just rewatched Frances Ha on Saturday and highly recommend it!

    • Carrie says...

      That line was helpful for me also. I feel like I never know what to say!

  33. Such great tips. I feel like being a good listener is somewhat of a lost art. I especially like the idea of resisting the urge to problem solve. As a parent, I find that when I just listen rather than problem solve my kiddos are more reflective and able to come to their own conclusions. #lifeskill

  34. Genevieve says...

    In response to the people talking about times when they just need to “vent” / partners who don’t let them and try and problem solve… Personally I do start to nudge people with questions about how they can change the situation if it’s something that keeps coming up. I really feel that ranting about things can just create more negativity around something and I think that at some point you have to decide either to change the situation or to accept it! My old housemate used to come home and complain about the same few things to do with her work day every night. Get a new job or get over it!! My solution offering is a subtle way of saying “stop filling my ears with these complaints that you have no interest in removing from your life”.

    Great listening advice in this article though. And the comment about giving people silence. Even a micro-second works wonders at getting people to carry on and go deeper rather than you cutting them off. I work closely with someone who is always in a rush and always interrupting people but it drives me mad because they aren’t listening so it takes twice as long to convey information correctly.

    • I think the key thing there is “something that keeps coming up.” I definitely agree that if people are complaining about the same thing over and over, and it’s something within their power to solve/fix/change, just letting them vent isn’t necessarily the best thing for them or you. But for the little “this happened today and it was so frustrating I just need to rant about it” moments, being able to listen without problem solving is a key interpersonal relationship skill.

  35. For all those recovering “problem solvers” (like myself) I wanted to share something my yoga teacher told me that helped me.

    When you feel like you “have the solution” to another’s problem first off: you are claiming to know what’s best for another person. This is a BOLD claim. Do you know absolutely everything about them? Of course not. Secondly: you are judging them. You are saying “Why can’t he just do X, that will solve Y.” Drop the judgment. When you judge people, you have no time to love them.

    And how can you really 100% know what’s best for them? Humble yourself. Maybe more suffering is exactly what this person actually needs right now in order to awaken to the answer. (As I believe Thich Nhat Hanh says: no mud, no lotus.)

    The only true way to help someone is to empower them to help themselves. You don’t empower people by throwing answers at them. You empower them by holding space for them. Allowing them to be seen and heard. When they are seen and heard, they can get in touch with the answers and clarity that already live within them. :) Namaste.

    • Sara says...

      OMWord Joyce, this is beautiful. “Maybe more suffering is exactly what this person actually needs right now in order to awaken to the answer. ” Thanks for your wisdom.

    • Denise says...

      I love everything about this comment. Thank you for posting.

    • Lauren E. says...

      My husband overheard my morning yoga session last week and I thought he was going to mock the instructor’s thoughts on gratitude (it’s a morning gratitude practice) and instead he said, “Hey I um… I liked what that yoga video said. The thing about gratitude. What did she say, no mud no lotus? I like that.”

      It was so sweet.

    • Caitlin says...

      Wow wow wow wow. “When you judge people, you have no time to love them”. Joyce, this whole comment hits home for me in such a mind blowing way, thank you so much for sharing. I am very VERY much a recovering problem solver and realizing that doing it is actually very judgmental is super helpful.

  36. Joanna says...

    So interesting and useful. This has made me think of the book I’m reading right now, “The Whole-Brain Child” by Siegel and Payne Bryson, and how our adult brains and need for acknowledgement at emotional level are often similar to our children’s in many ways. Put a label to an emotion, recognise how I may be feeling, show some empathy, etc. Then we can try and fix the world with a plethora of advice, etc.

  37. Jolanda says...

    I think this is so important and so difficult at the same time! I struggle with this with my toddler girl! I know young children cannot regulate their emotions yet, so I keep that in mind when she has a strong reaction to something. So recently I was telling her that she did not need to cry because (and I was trying to tell her that the emotion was much bigger then was necessary in this situation). And her response was (while wiping away her tears forcefully and her voice still shaking) ‘I am happy again mommy, I am happy again!’. But I was not trying to tell her she was not allowed to cry about the situation at all or that she should be happy instead. This has happened on a few occasions now and I am still not sure what I could do better to show her that her emotions are valid and she can show them however she likes.

    Typing this I am thinking, maybe I should not try to help her regulate her emotions at all, maybe that is something she will learn while she grows. I think I am gonna try that. Just comfort her and explain the situation to her but not telling her that she does not need to be sad.

    • CaraM says...

      Hi Jolanda, I’m also a mother of a toddler and I just wanted to mention a resource I’ve found helpful! I highly recommend the work of Janet Lansbury who uses the RIE (or respect-based approach) to parenting. One of the core tenants is acknowledging your child’s emotions and “sportscasting” or just simply stating what happened. I’ve found this to be so helpful with my 2 year old, it almost immediately stops a meltdown and it does it without judgment. Yesterday my daughter was getting upset because she could not get a cap on the marker. All I said to her was, “It sounds like you are frustrated because you can’t get the cap on the marker to snap.” My daughter (with sniffles) said, “Yes, Momma.” I replied, “Would you like me to help you snap the lid on?” After she shook her head yes, I snapped the lid on and she quickly transitioned into another activity. I know this probably sounds like common sense, but even in super difficult situations, it helps. I also try to just state the facts, name the emotion, and not judge the emotion (staying calm and collected) – even if it is big. Sometimes the magnitude of the emotion is really just her way of expressing that others things have built up – maybe she skipped a nap and is tired or overstimulated. Anyhow, easier said than done. I’m still working on this skill. But it has totally helped me. Here’s a link to her blog, podcast, and other resources: https://www.janetlansbury.com/

    • Rosa says...

      I have a 3 year old daughter and we struggle with the same things…I found Alyssa, an emotional development expert and child educator. Follow her on instagram @seedandsew her advice is that we dont need to help them have commensurate responses. We need to let them feel and then go back to calm. Crying is always accepted. Hitting and kicking not. Crying is such a healthy thing but it makes us feel uncomfortable…we need to get passed our discomfort, they can sense it even if we dont say anything. Go follow her!

    • diana k. says...

      Yea, I wouldn’t chime in on what emotion was appropriate or warranted because to be honest there is no RIGHT WAY to handle anything. Especially when a kid’s world is so small, someone stealing their crayon feels HUGE to them. If something that felt huge happened to you, you might cry! If you want to help your daughter navigate these emotions- ask her questions about what happened to help her process it, or throw her a simple “i’m sorry that happened, sweetheart”, or “i know that hurts” or “yes, he was mean.” The best thing you can do is show her that you’re a safe person to go to with her emotions.

    • jen says...

      i’m not a parent, so obviously take this with a huge grain of salt, but I am an aunt to many nieces and nephews. there’s nothing wrong with allowing children to experience their intense emotions and reactions to things (which may seem small to an adult but huge to a child)…I think the key is to help them learn how to cope with them in a healthy way and help them develop coping mechanisms when they become frustrated, angry, or upset. And in order to do so, I think naming emotions and breaking down what caused a child to feel a certain way is an important part of that process. maybe children can’t control their initial reaction to things, but I don’t really buy that children can’t be taught to control them. I think kids who don’t learn how to control their emotions become adults who can’t control them. no one has full control over everything they are feeling, but I think the key is..how to cope and adapt and find healthy ways to manage them. I think it’s a lesson even for many adults and older kids to learn as well and I feel like it’s the parents job to guide them and help them learn these skills…which it sounds like you are doing. everyone is learning, and I think this is a great discussion to have! there’s no 1 right way to approach anything

    • RBC says...

      Just wanted to chime in here – I think all the suggestions in reply to Jolanda’s comment are great! I wanted to add that while they are all wonderful suggestions, I still think the “right” response is much more complicated than telling your child that no emotion they ever feel is wrong. Many times, the emotion may not be wrong, it the manifestation of it is. For example: child 1 takes a tomato off of child 2’s plate at dinner without asking. Child 2 wanted that tomato and is angry that child 1 took it. Child 2 starts wailing, screaming kicking (not the other child, just flailing around). The emotion of being angry about it is fine, but that sort of eruption in the middle of dinner is (in my opinion) not. I think we do our children a disservice if we do not strive to teach them how to react calmly to big emotions. I’m sure many will disagree (I may be accused of tone policing my children -?). Some children have more of a tendency to have explosive reactions, while others have more measured reactions. To the same sorts of things. Whenever I read those lists of “10 things to say instead of ‘stop crying'” lists, I think ‘yes those are great ideas!’…. And simultaneously ‘I wonder if the author of this list has an extremely dramatic child or more than one child?’ haha

    • Tori says...

      @ Jen —Thank you! You sound like a great aunt, and I think your perspective is really helpful. For kids, learning to be in control of themselves when the problems are little, with the love and help of people who care about them most in the world is, I think, much more ideal than trying to learn as an adult with much harsher consequences.

    • KB says...

      I was hoping somebody would mention Janet Lansbury and RIE! This approach has some controversial tenets (no babywearing, no tummy time) that I don’t 100% agree with, but the overall philosophy is respect of the child and particularly the child’s emotions, which can sometimes seem overblown to us but are actually very valid. Here is an episode of her podcast that I like: https://www.janetlansbury.com/2015/10/help-frustrated-child/. I highly recommend it!

    • CaraM says...

      RBC, I agree with your comments. While emotions can be big, you still have to set limits. Even if I acknowledge the facts and feelings of my child, I do agree with setting limits (for example, no kicking or hitting) and calmly block their kick/hit saying “I won’t let you do this.” I don’t have the space to summarize all of RIE/Janet Lansbury’s works here (and I would surely do a disservice to them), but highly recommend them. There are so many parenting philosophies and thoughts – and what “may be right for me” may not be right for someone else. I do also think big emotions, especially during the toddler years, are also a reflection of something else – their brains aren’t fully developed, there can be struggles to communicate effectively, and overly tired/stimulated can play a factor.

      I really want my child to feel their feelings – I grew up in a very strict household where we were told to “pipe down” or “be tough.” That landed me an addiction of binge eating because I never learned how to properly process my feelings, I stuffed them down with food.

    • Anni says...

      So many good thoughts and responses here, and I want to add to the conversation about listening to children and developmental appropriate responses….a great resource of a non-profit called Hand-in-Hand Parenting that has online classes (and scholarships!) for parents and people who work with children. And a book by their founder called, “Listen.” (Which is 1/3 full of super useful real-life stories of how parents responded to & navigated intense emotional experiences- their own and their children’s!!) And another book I love, related to the work of developmental psychologist Gordon Neufeld- which I don’t have time to describe now, but the subtitle says it all: “Rest, Play, Grow: How to understand preschoolers or anyone who acts like one” ha!

    • RBC says...

      Thank you Karam for your response! I totally agree it is so age dependent! I was thinking more of my 6 and year olds. Very different than when my 3 year old or 1 year old throws a fit. :) We do have lots of drama to go around here and I can’t be too mad because I think I know where they got their drama from. ;) Still trying! Haha

  38. Jolanda says...

    I have struggled with this recently myself, so this article was actually really helpful, thank you.

  39. Irene says...

    My best friend since 6th grade is going through a terribly devastating breakup, and for the last two months we’ve been taking a stroll through the neighborhood as soon as we get off work – sometimes talking about Life-Altering Moments and Regrets and Big Decisions, and sometimes just walking side by side in silence. The other day, I told her I wish I could do more, to which she (tearfully) replied: The very fact that you are standing next to me brings me comfort. And, in a way, I knew that was true. Little things aren’t little, after all.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      That’s so beautiful, Irene. What a good friend you are. <3

  40. Anna says...

    I just love your blog so much, Joanna! Reading this feels like talking to my best friend. Just wanted to let you know <3

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      That makes me so happy, Anna. Thank you for taking the time to write this :)

  41. Sarah says...

    That photo makes me want to watch Frances Ha again! So so good!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Me too!!! Wish we could have a Cup of Jo viewing:) Funnily enough, I saw it at the dentist during a filling and STILL loved it. Such a good movie.

  42. Danielle says...

    Great article! My husband is aways trying to problem solve when I vent and it makes me nuts. Have you seen this hilarious video? Tells both sides of the venting/ problem solver relationship in such a funny way.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4EDhdAHrOg

    • Vanessa says...

      Thank you!!!!! I can’t stop laughing. Just watched twice and promptly texted this link. Hahaha!!!!!!!

  43. T says...

    I remember hearing Oprah talking about how she manages to crack people open and she said something like ‘you wait’ and elaborated that people crave the space to share their inner selves but they need to be sure it’s there, first they test the waters, are you listening? Are you engaged? And lastly IS THERE SPACE? If you leave silence in the air and space around the conversation (no checking of phones, no distractions) it’s remarkable what people say next. As a recovering interrupter and fixer it’s exciting to watch people unfold in front of me if I can muster enough patience to let it happen.

    Oh and also. I read that a lot of men and also teens don’t love face to face feelings sharing. Since starting long walks with my husband it’s amazing how much he can yabber on about his inner workings when we’re instead, side by side.

    • Sonja says...

      It was so meaningful to me that you wrote “as a recovering interrupter and fixer…” I’m sitting here tonight feeling stupid about my own lack of listening (specifically earlier today), and somehow your comment made me feel like “wait! there’s hope to recover! someone else isn’t there yet either but is working on it!”
      Thank you for the encouragement :)

      p.s. and YES the “is there space” question is so important

    • T says...

      Sonja it’s so hard. And I’m humbling myself too by reading the comments. The ego is a little wounded but the spirit is growing.

    • Caitlin says...

      So humbled by these comments. Recovering interrupter and fixer. Been told repeatedly, frequently, that I don’t listen to my fiance, when I WANT to. Is there space….. no. There often isn’t. Oof. There is work to be done. Thank you for sharing.

  44. Kelly says...

    When my son was a newborn and I was having major trouble breastfeeding, I became panicked one night, just losing my mind. My husband somehow got the contact info for a woman who was a member of the local La Leche League. She came to our house that night, and as I cried, holding my son, shaking, and she knelt beside me, put her hand on mine, and said “I hear you, I see you, I understand.” I wept with appreciation. I didn’t realize how much I needed to be seen even before I needed concrete ideas to navigate this challenge. My son is four now, and this remains a powerful memory for me, so meaningful and appreciated. This woman’s ability to listen and let me know that she heard me was an incredible gift.

    • Kelly says...

      I hit submit too fast! I meant to add that this post is just wonderful. Thank you for getting me thinking about how to be a good listener, myself.

    • Susie says...

      As a Mom, RN and lactation consultant this made my heart just swell up and my eyes water. Breastfeeding is so hard and there are so many frustrations that I swear always happen in the middle of the night! II am so glad you had your husband to call in extra support!

    • Emily says...

      Wow Kelly. I just teared up reading your comment. What an amazing resource La Leche League is for you and your community

  45. Claire says...

    Thank you! great article, and the comments are gold, as usual.

  46. Robbersoup says...

    One term I’ve heard is “weather report’l which means: I am just venting right now, I just need you to listen and not give advice. So you start the conversation with your husband with “Hey, this is a weather report!”

    • Robbersoup says...

      Sorry! I meant to reply to the woman who wanted her husband to understand she was just venting.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      I love that!

  47. Sharing this!!! Loved this post. Taking home a few pointers and putting them into practice this week. “be open and curious” and the “validation” I have seen in action and so true!!!

  48. Lillie says...

    This is amazing. I’m a high school counselor who understands this deeply but gets so stuck in the weeds occasionally that I needed this reminder. Thank you!

    PS. Keep doing what you’re doing. I have been following you and other people before influencing was even a thing. I am getting so sick of so many blocggers/influencers. But you remain true. I have always felt like I was getting a magazine article from you once a day.

  49. Emma says...

    Need to memorize these points! I used to be a preschool teacher and I’ll 100% back naming the emotion! I can’t tell you how many times just saying, “Are you sad because you miss your mom or dad?” totally broke down some two year old walls of frustration and getting no where! No matter how old we are we all just want to he heard and understood!

  50. Kim says...

    I loved this and bookmarked it. I’ve always been a good listener, I’m the friend who has acted as your therapist for years. It makes me feel good that my friends and family feel that comfortable with me. (I’m also good at keeping secrets!)

    Sometimes when I feel the need to offer advice, I actually ask something like, “Okay, what do you need from me? Advice? Someone to vent to? A hug?” It’s remarkably helpful sometimes.

  51. Denise says...

    I love this. I’m a school psychologist and I have a lot of parents asking me how they can improve their communication with their kids; well this is how. Some of these tips are also in the book “How To Talk So Kids Will Listen, & Listen So Kids Will Talk.” Highly recommend it :)

    • Tori says...

      Yes, that book was really helpful for me! This post made me think of it, too.

    • Marci says...

      Loved that book and “Siblings Without Rivalry”! I think they helped me with my adult relationships as well as parenting my kids.

  52. Callie says...

    Wow, I really need to take these tips to heart! As an anxious person I’m often thinking about the next thing to say before someone else is even done speaking (can we blame this on the childhood panic of being called on in class?) I’m trying to remember to really listen, not to be crafting an answer. I will however say, there are certain situations particularly with friends where “I can’t tolerate whatever you’re feeling right now” is actually the truth! I do want to be supportive and empathetic, but sometimes it feels like too much to hear what my friends are going through. I often start giving advice because I feel so awkward or because my nerves are frayed just hearing about their struggles. Is there a good way to support friends that seem to be in ongoing crisis mode without losing our own sanity?

    • T says...

      Go to therapy, learn how to increase your own capacity – and how to set boundaries in a way that feels authentic to you. Therapy is just a skills class, it’s not scary once you’re there. I couldn’t recommend it more.
      X

    • Callie, friendships ideally should feel like equal energy exchanges. If you have friends that seem like they are in ongoing crisis mode and it’s draining you, I highly recommend, as T said, setting loving boundaries. Now, sometimes people claim they are “setting boundaries” when they are really just afraid to face difficult situations and relationships that could be big learning opportunities. [I see this a lot with parents. It is possible to HEAL parental relationships but many would rather just build walls and ignore the issues.]

      I like to think of setting boundaries—rather than building a wall—as protecting my own peace. What are you doing to fill up your own cup so you don’t feel so drained so easily?

      I had a friend like this and it was REALLY wearing me down. You know what I did? Took a couple days to respond to text messages. Didn’t *always* answer the phone. Protected my peace. We are still friends, but she found someone else to be her go-to crisis consultant. And I am totally fine with that. The truth is, a co-dependent relationship doesn’t serve anyone.

    • Callie says...

      Thanks, T and Joyce! That’s very helpful feedback, and I feel both of those suggestions, setting boundaries but also learning to increase my capacity. I think listening, but not shouldering, is something I will strive for.

  53. CS says...

    Haha – I had to laugh! My husband and I saw that Chris Rock clip years ago, and we also sometimes joke (still… all these years later!) when I’m venting about something, “That b*** be crazy “.

  54. Brooke says...

    I love love love this. Both the giving and the receiving of deep listening. I love reading about the neuroscience of attachment – we actually start emotionally regulating every time we feel held in mind and not alone (see Dan Siegel, or Sue Johnson for more!) One of my favorite quotes on listening and empathy is from lovely Rick Hansen:

    Empathy is a kind of mindfulness practice, sustaining attention this time to someone else’s inner world. Empathy is soothing, calming, bridge-building; when it’s present, it’s much easier to work through things.
    Tune into their breathing, posture, gestures, actions. Watch the eyes closely; human eyes are the most expressive of any species on our planet. Open up to your own gut feelings, which could be resonating with those of other people. Ask yourself what you would be feeling if you were them. Stay with it.

    Empathy gives you a feeling for what it’s like to be another person. When you are empathic, even quietly and tacitly, that tells the other person that he or she exists for you as a being, as a Thou to your I. That’s usually what people most want to know; it’s more fundamental than whatever topic is on the table. Open up to other people, letting their inner life flow through you like wind through the leaves of a deeply rooted tree. It is important to have roots that anchor you, this helps you not be overwhelmed by what the other person is feeling.

  55. Kaitlyn says...

    Man, that Chris Rock clip doesn’t age well…

    • Sarah says...

      I thought the same thing! Loved everything else about this though.

  56. Alina says...

    Absolutely brilliant and perfect advice for us all. Thank you!!!

  57. janee says...

    I so appreciate posts on upgraded social codes etc… These are great tips. I also recommend Non-Violent Communication (NVC) courses. NVC was developed by Marshall Rosenberg for the UN as an aide to negotiation and was so successful that now it’s taught everywhere! Super helpful in both biz communications as well as family conversations!

    • meg says...

      I agree, Janee! I have just started learning about NVC and love it. I’d been stressed about a coworker who often tells me “You need to do this…” or “You should do that…” and it amazes me how aggressive it can feel. I’m trying to use NVC to learn how to properly respond, but with her, any response seems to escalate her “passive”-aggression. I would never actually do it, but I’ve been wishing I could casually leave the NVC book on her desk one night… these are such useful tools, I just wish more people would take note!
      (In the meantime, I’ll share the Chris Rock video with my partner, who is surely tired of hearing about all of it every night after work, so he can just chime in, that b*tch crazy!!!)

  58. RP says...

    Last piece of advice has made me realise one reason why my partner feels like such a breath of fresh air after coming from a family who (with good/bad intentions or just out of habit) would always automatically respond to any anxiety with problem solving mode. In my adult relationship I feel validated, listened too and entitled to my emotions.

    One thought I had about the first piece of advice i.e. first responding ‘Im so glad you told me’ to bombshell declarations is that that this can really work in some contexts and be less suitable in others and maybe part of being a good listener is also gushing those contexts. E.g. a friend dropping bombshell news to a close friend may want/need a reaction which is quite different than that they would want/need/expect from a therapist. Also I guess acting within your the range of known personality is also really important when reacting to big news from friends, and if that’s effusive that need not preclude you from being a good listener. Anyway I was just turning over some ideas.

    • Helena says...

      Yes!! I was just thinking exactly the same thing. My brother recently became a psychologist and while I’m SO happy for him, it’s really ruined his ability to talk to me like a brother. If I call him with big news and need advice he immediately goes in to therapist mode and reacts the way this article tells you to react, and I HATE IT!😂 I don’t want a therapist! I want my brother! I hate the affirmative “oh you sound really angry” or “thanks for opening up”. I want a good old “oh that bitch is crazy, you should have told her to xxx!”😆 If I want a therapist I call a therapist. When talking to a friend I expect advice.

  59. Elizabeth says...

    Ha, early on in our relationship I was telling my now husband at length about a student I was supervising where it was totally not working out, and mostly feeling like it was probably me, that I needed to do something different or better.
    Finally he just looked at me and said: “Well, some people are terrible.”
    I laughed and honestly felt freed/relieved. He’s said it to me many times over the years generally and it is oddly, remarkably helpful. Of course it’s good to be self-reflective and change your behaviour if you need to, but it’s helped me realize the problem isn’t ALWAYS me.

    • Haha! Have you read the book “The Four Agreements” Elizabeth? Your comment reminded me of the second agreement: Don’t take anything personally. I think you would appreciate it!! Embodying that agreement was a game changer for me :)

  60. Em says...

    Any advice on how to get your partner to stop doing the “problem solving” thing? I know this is a common issue among couples and I’ve discussed it with my husband a lot. Sometimes I just need to vent, and when I’m talking about a work problem or work stress with my husband, his responses always feels to me like he’s criticizing me. He says he’s just trying to help and trying to make me feel better by suggesting ways to make the problem go away. I don’t know how else to explain to him that I appreciate that, but in that moment, it isn’t helpful and makes me feel worse. I’m out of ideas on how to explain it or ask him to change. It’s to the point where I just don’t talk about stressful stuff with my husband anymore because it makes me more stressed :/ (And yes I’ve told him that and he still doesn’t understand how to talk to me about that kind of stuff).

    • G says...

      Could be an idea to point him in the direction of the ‘name the emotion’ advice here? I’d imagine having him say ‘that must make you really angry/undermined/sad’ would make you feel better than a string of advice in the moment and would also be a structure for him to follow and a way that he could feel that he was actually helping you and fulfilling his very obvious and lovely need to help you when you’re in need. Maybe you could also have a time limit agreed when he can mention any practical ideas he does come up with that might help the situation so you can hear them but when you’re in a less raw and sensitive position.anyway, just some thoughts.

    • Cheryl says...

      When I just need to vent I tell my hubby, I gotta tell you something and all I want is for you to do is listen, agree with me, and tell me X (how awful, that sucks or the above Chris Rock “I told you that b*tch was crazy”, or that you love me and I’m awesome). If you spell it out to them before it helps them provide the right response back because all they want to do is love you and they just think that providing an answer is the way to do it. Half the time I just end up cracking up at his terrible job of trying to express the “x” I told him that he cheers me up and lightens the tension. (This advice isn’t gender specific! We all jump to trying to fix things (or one upping) and not just letting a person vent!).

    • Brooke says...

      Hi Em, someone in my community asked her husband, what is it like when I tell you not to problem solve when I’m hurting, and he said “Its so painful, its like you have broken your leg and you won’t let me call an ambulance.” and she said, “Oh my gosh that’s so painful, thank you for telling me that. For me, when you care, you ARE my ambulance.” It was such a sweet moment and he said it really helped to know he was helping and being active. It reminded me that (some) men feel the pain of empathy without realizing they are actually helping. I also like the book Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson that does such a good job unpacking the cycle of disconnection for so many of us. Hope you have a sweet breakthrough, you sound so lovely.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s so beautiful, brooke. thank you so much for sharing.

    • Kim says...

      Keep repeating that you don’t want solutions or advice, you just want to vent. Or, maybe rephrase your comment to him at a calm time where you are both not in vent/solution mode. Tell him while you cook dinner together, or on a walk. Sometimes it’s easier to explain what you need when you aren’t looking eye to eye.

    • janee says...

      As a recovered/ing chronic “problem solver” I’ve got to share what my college housemate/friend told me years ago. She had a stressful job and would come home and just go on and on about her challenging day while we prepared dinner – and I would always try to problem solve thinking this was the most helpful thing to do. Finally one day she just stopped me and said point blank: “I just want to vent about it while you listen – I don’t actually want suggestions because they can’t help me – I need to process. It just really helps that you’re there listening… And also making dinner is how I relax, would you be willing to just hang out with me and not do anything while I make us dinner?” I totally got it and it was such a relief for both of us, lol.

      A major after-effect as someone who thought they loved to cook was discovering that what I REALLY love is when I Do NOT have to cook, haha! The rest of that year was dinner bliss – she was a great cook!

    • Kelly says...

      There’s a great episode of Parks and Recreation about this! Ann is pregnant and Chris wants to keep solving her problems, but she wants to vent. The other characters teach him to say “that sucks” instead.

    • Em says...

      Thanks for all of this fantastic advice everyone :)

    • Owl says...

      Here is another perspective to consider. While it’s important to communicate with your hubby, and understand and support each other, keep this mind: Sometimes, if you know that you really just need a prolonged venting session, phone a girlfriend. Talk your hearts out. That’s what girlfriends are for. I heard advice recently that summed it up brilliantly: Think of the 80/20 rule. Hubby can be the 80%, but he can’t be your 100%. No one can be (Can you be 100% of what he needs and wants in life?). So appreciate the 80 % and be your own 120%. Just a thought.

    • Angela says...

      My husband and I went to counseling for this exact thing!!

      She said two things:
      Understanding precedes agreement
      Understanding precedes advice

      So, your husband CAN keep trying to problem solve but first needs to understand!

    • Lauren says...

      I find that most “problem solving” men are actually JUST like women in this way, when it’s only guys together. Sometimes they’re even *better* listeners! I think this whole dichotomy is a myth: 😂

      “I called the parts store and that Bob idiot behind the counter didn’t even know what I was talking about!”
      “%$#@ that guy’s dumb! You’d think you’d have a clue after working there two years”
      “Yeah like what’s his problem!” etc etc

      “$&@#ing cop pulled me over and gave me a ticket!”
      “Oh man that sucks! what an @-hole.”
      “Man I’d like to punch them sometimes.”
      (never “you know you really shouldn’t speed, Timmy”)

      “The wife’s always telling me to listen to her feeeelings and not try to fix everything, but like if there’s a nail in her forehead, take the #@$%ing thing out!”
      “I know! Where do they even get this $#!@?”
      “Yeah right? Must be some $#@& off Oprah.”
      “Who knows, what a load of BS.”

  61. Kirstin says...

    One of the biggest listening lessons I’ve ever taken to heart is giving someone eye contact. I can feel a deeper connection when I’m looking at the person sharing with me in the eye. When it is about something intense, it sometimes elicits a deeper response…tears, laughs…it may seem intimidating, but with someone I’m close with, it feels really intimate and meaningful.

  62. Kim says...

    This: “It’s not some act of charity to listen to people — it makes all your conversations better!”

    Great article. Thank you.

    • I loved that line too!! xo

  63. Calla says...

    So helpful and interesting! 5 is definitely a big one for me, it’s so frustrating when I’m in a bad situation and am looking for validation and instead just hear “This is what you can do..” I know what I need to do, I just want someone to say “That sucks, I’m sorry that is happening” There is a fantastic Modern Family episode where Phil learns this

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hFAv8z8xmw

  64. sarah-mai says...

    This is really so lovely and so needed. Thank you!

  65. shannon says...

    As a therapist, I loved reading this! 90+% of therapy (imho) is simply doing the things Lina outlines. I want so badly to problem solve because it is hard seeing people in pain. This was a good reminder to take a step back from that and stay rooted in the fundamentals.

  66. Marcella says...

    I recently went to a relationships building training where we practiced something called “constructivist listening” where we had to listen to someone talk for 5 minutes without saying anything! It was so hard!!! I then realized that my boyfriend is really good listener in that I’m always interrupting and he just listens, lol.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      WOW. That sounds really hard, honestly!

  67. Abbi says...

    I’m bookmarking all of these fantastic tips- thank you for sharing!!

  68. AJ says...

    This is so good. Being listened to and heard is such a powerful gift. I think most of us would like to be good listeners – these are great tips! I defo need to avoid the urge to problem-solve…

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      It’s so hard not to mention a really good idea for a solution :)

  69. Lauren B says...

    Love this – thank you!!
    As a parent, it is so important to me that I am my son’s safe place… but I worry that one day my child will share something big with me, and I’ll be caught off guard and respond awkwardly instead of saying “i’m so glad you told me”. After reading this piece, I feel like I can practice using it in my everyday life, so that it becomes routine and I become a better listener in general.

    • Calla says...

      That’s such a good idea! I often beat myself up about my first reaction to things people tell me and wish I had done it differently. You are right, practicing with the little things might make it more second nature when something bigger comes up