Today is RU OK Day. A day when we’re reminded that in the hustle and busyness of every day life, how important it is to take the time to ask the simple question, ‘are you okay?’.
Everyone is going through something, sometimes we may not realise how much. So by taking a moment to ask this simple question could have a big positive impact in someone’s life.
But how do we react when someone actually answers this question? Do we listen, cheer or solve? I know I automatically jump to cheering (showing support, looking for the bright side) followed swiftly by solving.
We talked to Dr Katherine to learn why it’s important (and often more helpful) to become a great listener.
Living in a day and age that promotes independence and being able to get through ‘anything and everything’ by yourself, it’s OK to realise that sometimes you need some external support. Whether it’s a shoulder to cry on or simply a sounding board to vent what’s on your mind, it’s important to remember that listening, rather than giving advice could be more powerful than you realise. The most important thing to remember is if your mouth is open, you’re not listening. Choose to be a friend, not a teacher.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably gone through a few (ok a lot) of breakups. And no matter how many you face, they still hurt, and hurt badly.
About a decade ago, I was unexpectedly dumped by a guy who in my mind, was going to be husband.
“I just don’t love you”, he said.
Of course being the drama queen I was, I fell to the floor (literally) and started to wail. For days, I couldn’t sleep. Once I even drove to his house and climbed through his bedroom window just to be with him. Quite possibly I coined the term ‘stage 5 clinger’.
While the pain has long passed, the memories of my support network’s actions are still vivid. I can easily separate them into 2 categories:
Category 1: The Cheerers
These make up the majority. These are the friends and family members who hate seeing you hurt, which is a beautiful thing! As such, they say things like “keep your chin up” and “there are other fish in the sea!”.
Category 2: The Listeners
These make up the infinitely small minority, my father being one of them. They do one thing, and they do it well: they listen. Yep, that’s it.
After the dramatic dumping I called my father, expecting him to magically make everything better. As I poured my heart out, I expected quick-fix solutions in return. Annoyed and frustrated, snapped at my dad and said “you’re my dad, make it better!”. Here’s what I got back;
“Squigs, I wish I could make it better for you, but only time can do that, and I’ll be with you to listen every step of the way”.
At the time, I didn’t get it. But a few days later, it sunk in.
Fact is, giving advice is a natural instinct, because down deep we all want to be saviours! We want to be the ones who magically make everything better.
But to really help someone, you need to put your ego aside and remember that just being there is the most powerful antidote to pain there is.
Here are my top 5 tips to listen, rather than fix:
- If your mouth is open, you’re not listening. Keep it shut and don’t be afraid of blocks of silence, as this is where introspection works its magic.
- Remove the words “at least” from your vocabulary. Saying “at least you’re still young” is equivalent to a slap in the face when you’re hurting.
- Listen to what they’re saying and try and find something that reminds you of their pain. If you were in their shoes, how would you be feeling?
- Don’t push. Sure getting fresh air and going to a party might seem like a good idea at the time, but you can’t push someone to do something they clearly don’t want to do. In time, when they’re ready, they’ll let you know.
- No, not at them, but don’t be afraid to crack a joke when the time is right. As Charlie Chaplin says, “Laughter is the tonic, the relief, the surcease for pain.”
Dr Katherine Iscoe is a Canadian-born confidence guru who thrives on teaching effective, evidence-based solutions to help change people’s lives for the better, to ignite positivity and shine from within. Her unique science-backed process, that has helped over 1,200 women, is informed by extensive research, personal experiences and academic qualifications; including Bachelor of Arts in Health Sciences, Master of Science in Exercise Physiology and Health Sciences, a Doctorate in Exercise Physiology and Biotechnology and a Post-graduate Certificate in Counselling.
In a society blinded by #inspiration and #bodygoals, Dr Katherine continually aims to prove that it’s understanding the science behind our behaviours, that will promote change in ourselves and our self-confidence. For more great tips follow Dr Katherine on social media or check out her website.