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Get Out of Your Own Head--and Into Someone Else's

Years ago I was a volunteer at my church in a ministry called "Befrienders." The mission of this ministry was to actively listen to someone in the parish who was going through a crisis and be there for them simply by listening to their story. As someone who likes to help people, I was drawn to this opportunity. This involved getting interviewed. Getting accepted. Attending a day-long training with a group of other newly-selected Befrienders. It also involved confidential monthly meetings where one of the cases was presented to the group for reflection and discussion (no identifying information allowed).

People from the parish self-identified that they would like to be paired with a Befriender, and the director of the program made the matches. I was matched with someone who had very ill, elderly parents and an adult neuro-diverse brother all living in the same household. This person was also stressed from her job and the demands that kept changing there.

We met about once a month for coffee at Panera, and I always started with "How are you doing?" After I gathered the facts of her story and listened to her all-consuming worry for her parents and brother--and herself, it became clear to me that there was NOTHING I could do for her. Nothing but listen. I couldn't offer advice. That wasn't the point of the relationship. In fact, I was trained not to. I couldn't magically take care of her parents, her brother or her struggles with work. Furthermore, I had the feeling that somehow things would improve one of these months. That was wrong of me too. Her life continued on the exact same path. Every time we met I felt like we already had the same conversation. We did.

It was then that I realized that "being there" for someone in need was the gift. The active listening was the gift. The time and space we occupied together was the gift.

The unexpected effect that this relationship had on me was that it made me think of my life differently. There's no comparing or thinking I'm better or worse because at least I don't have those problems. No, that's not it. The truth is that I was able to put in perspective the challenges I was facing and think of them differently. I was able to think about how powerful listening attentively, actively with compassion can be. NO problem solving. No action planning. No goal setting. No interrupting! For a coach like me--this was tough.

I will be honest with you. I get excited and like to jump in. It is a behavior I have to work hard on. There is enough time for everyone to share their ideas. And there is enough space for everyone to be heard for the sake of being listened to. It's not "dumping" or venting--which means I just have to complain about something. It's an exchange of hearts and minds.

The big bad world gets busier all the time. Just pause long enough to listen. Not even react. Maybe not even respond. Maybe just shake your head, let an eyebrow go up. This life skill is worth the effort. And so are you.

With listening in mind--I held an "Ask the Coach Anything" session last Wednesday on Zoom. I honestly thought NO ONE would come, and I'd be doing a work session of my own. NOT SO--so I thank you all who did come and ask. The question that came up will be the topic of my FB LIVE on Wednesday March 30 at 4PM central--It pertains to gratitude but not like you might think.... Stay tuned. Join me there!

Also, my first workshop on the platform is LIVE and ready for registrants. I will send another post about that. Interactive learning on zoom in a community. First date is Wednesday April 20 at 7-8:15PM. Topic: What happened to your life during covid? What are you going to do about that?

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