Don't Try to Fix It, Just Listen to Me!

Updated on June 15, 2019
Viola Horne profile image

We are all just walking each other home. If we can be anything, let's be kind.

Really Listen

It takes more than two ears to really listen when a friend or relative comes to you with a problem. Follow these three steps and watch the speaker transform from panicked to peaceful.

Let Them Talk

There is an art to being able to let someone talk just long enough to get to the heart of the problem without allowing them to ramble. The speaker will often start out with the details of the presenting circumstance. He'll tell you what happened. He may then move into some assumptions or guesses about the motives and actions of those involved. If you're lucky, he will talk about the feelings he experienced and is still experiencing that are causing the pain. Your biggest job is to move him from his assumptions to his feelings and, ultimately, his options.

The trick to finding the right length of time is to listen for repetition. Once the speaker has repeated himself once or twice, it's time to summarize and move forward. Generally, five to 15 minutes is a good amount of time for disclosure.

Let's say your co-worker comes into your office and asks if you have a minute. The first, most important thing you can do to convey care and concern is to stop, make eye contact and say something like, "Sure. Sit down." Then move everything else from your line of sight, and focus. If you hesitate, continue working, or don't make eye contact, you may have lost the opportunity for intimate disclosure. If he thinks you are too busy, not interested or upset at the interruption, you may only get the paper-skin off the onion.

Resist the urge to chit-chat. Get to the point. Say, "What's up?" or "Tell me what's going on." Then let them talk. Don't interrupt.

Don't give advice. The only thing you can say during this time are encouraging words, such as, "I see," "Uh-huh," and "OK." Advice-giving can be subtle, with lead-ins such as:

  • "You should just tell her to ..."
  • "Why don't you...."
  • "Have you tried..."
  • "Don't let him get away with that!"

Don't be afraid of silence. If he stops talking for a few seconds, resist the urge to jump in. See what else comes out. Continue making eye contact. Sometimes just being heard and seen can be enough.

Get To The Point

Once you've listened to her story and she has either stopped talking or has begun to repeat herself, it's time to summarize. Find a way to insert your thought without cutting her off. You could say something like:

  • "Can I tell you what I'm hearing?"
  • "It sounds to me like you feel..."
  • "I've been listening and what it sounds like you're saying is..."
  • "I've heard you use the word, "afraid," three times. What are you mostly afraid of?"
  • "I think I've heard enough examples. How is this affecting you?"

Your goal is to get her to talk about herself and her part in the problem instead of focusing on something she can't change, namely the circumstances, another person or both. When she can see that she shares in the problem, she has options. Most problems are caused by at least two people or things -- the perpetrator and the victim. A victim always looks for a rescuer. If you give advice or allow her to blame-shift, she gets to stay the victim and has no personal responsibility. Once she stops seeing herself as the victim, she can find her own power and you will have done your job as an Ace Listener.

It's Not About The Nail

Offer Real Hope

Most people don't like to be told what to do. We want to be the masters of our own destinies. Helping people see their options enables them to feel in control and control feels safe.

Once you've listened and summarized the problem, gently help your friend look at the options. Ask,

  • "What are your options?"
  • "What have you done in the past with a circumstance like this? Did it work?"
  • "What are some really crazy things you could do right now?"
  • "Let's look at some extremes: At one extreme, you could... and at the other extreme you could... What would the middle look like?"
  • "What do you think the next right thing for you to do now is?"
  • "If the tables were turned, and I was the one with this problem, what would you suggest I do?"

The most important aspect of this step is to let your friend come up with her own answers. She needs to find what is right for her. Even if she says, "I don't have any options!" resist the urge to give them to her. Tell her to think about it for a few days and see what she comes up with. Remind her that she is smart and that you believe in her.

Survey Says

What's the Number One thing people complain about?

See results


Submit a Comment
  • jo miller profile image

    Jo Miller 

    3 years ago from Tennessee

    Very well done. Gotta share this video with my husband.

    I had to go back and look at your profile to see why I had connected in the first place. I liked what you said about life being good. Was that the reason? I don't remember, but I think I'll check out some more of your hubs.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)