I Can “Help”
I don’t mean to be arrogant when I offer my thoughts on what you should do about, well, anything. In fact, I think I’m being helpful when I offer my opinion about:
- your life and how you should run it
- your relationships and how you should manage them
- you money and how you should spend it
I think I have good ideas, a unique perspective and a generous spirit. If only you’d listen to me, your situation would be so much better.
But the truth is, I am in no position to tell you (or anyone) how to live life:
- I have my own bucket of ‘stuff’ to deal with
- No matter how well I know you, I don’t know what the right thing is for you to do
- When I offer unsolicited advice, I deprive you of a chance to learn and grow
As I’ve matured (thank goodness I have!), I’ve come to realize that what most people want, in times of stress, is an objective, caring ear. It’s unusual to have a friend who will simply listen, who doesn’t offer their opinion, particularly when it’s unsolicited.
Am I a Listener or a Talker?
Are you the well-meaning advisor or are you the one to whom the unsolicited advice is offered? Maybe you’re neither, congratulations!
If, however, you have that friend who often gives you their assessment of what you should do, even when all you want is someone listen, I’m curious how you handle them. Here’s what I do.
I’ve learned to listen a bit and then change the subject. If they really can’t help offering their advice, I find I don’t talk to them about important things happening in my life. This saves a lot of problems.
It took me a long time to be able to say to, out loud, to my friend or family member, “I just need you to listen to me right now.” Once I could do it, I was a lot happier.
Wait, Why Am I Talking?
I am clear that talking less is desirable. If you’re an introvert, you may already get this, but not necessarily. Just because I’d rather observe than jump into the middle… doesn’t mean that I’m a good listener OR know when to keep my mouth shut. It takes practice and attention to learn how to be a good listener. It’s worthwhile work.
When my kids were growing up, I wanted to tell them everything they should or shouldn’t do. I tried so hard to hold back. To let them learn themselves what works for them. I tried to show them what I thought was a good way to live, to be in the world, to accept responsibility, to be a citizen of the world. But I’m sure I said more than I should have. When you’re a parent, it’s hard to realize your kids are old enough to make their own decisions. It’s like a tightrope walk!
Even today, I find myself talking and talking… I think, am I adding value, making important points? Sometimes I find I’m just talking just to feel like I fit in, to feel like I matter, like my experience is valuable. I have to practice, all the time, reminding myself… W. A. I.T. why am I talking? W.hy A.m I. T.alking
If you don’t know Desiderata… I recommend checking it out. It starts out… Happy summer.
“Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence…”Desiderata
A person on the pathJuly 11, 2018
The right time to speak is an ongoing challenge for me – sometimes staying quiet and listening with an open heart is best for the situation.
From Buddhism’s Vaca Sutta:
“Monks, a statement endowed with five factors is well-spoken, not ill-spoken. It is blameless & unfaulted by knowledgeable people. Which five?
“It is spoken at the right time. It is spoken in truth. It is spoken affectionately. It is spoken beneficially. It is spoken with a mind of good-will.
“A statement endowed with these five factors is well-spoken, not ill-spoken. It is blameless & unfaulted by knowledgeable people.”