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The gift of listening to others powerlessly

Why do we avoid listening to complainers?

Why do we have difficulty listening to those in pain or heartbreak?

Why do we have difficulty listening to those who are frightened?

Think of a time when this was true for you. Were you living inside one or more of these "shoulds"?

 

  • "They should not be thinking or feeling the way they are."

  • "They should not complain."

  • "They should not complain about me."

  • "They should take my advice which they aren't or won't."

  • "I should be able to help them."

  • "I should not be powerless to help them."

  • "I should know what to do to help them."

  • "I should want to help them."

  • "I should help them."

If you're dominated by one or more of these "shoulds," then you will...

 

  • avoid someone who might complain about you or to you, or

  • hope they won't mention their pain, problem, fear, or complaint, or

  • have difficulty in listening to them, or

  • feel bad because they feel bad, or

  • try to rescue them or fix their problem, or

  • blame them.

Being limited to one or more of these responses is not likely to be happy or even effective for you or them.

The way out for you (and maybe even for them) is for you to know that you are powerless...

  • because you cannot fix their pain or fear or suffering, or

  • because you cannot reassure them that it will get better, or

  • because you're unable or unwilling to do anything differently, or

  • because you don't have permission to coach them or give them advice, or

  • because you're unable to prevent them from blaming you.

The gifts of powerlessness for you are...

  • you will not want to avoid someone who might complain about you or to you, and/or

  • you will be okay if they share their pain, problem, fear, or complaint, and/or

  • you will be able to deeply listen to them, knowing that you can give them this, and/or

  • you won't feel bad because they feel bad, and/or

  • you won't feel any need to rescue them or fix them, and/or

  • you may discover some valuable influence that you have when you know you're powerless, and/or

  • you won't feel any need to get defensive.

The possible gifts of your powerlessness for them...

  • they can feel easy to share with you, knowing that you won't feel burdened or worried, and/or

  • they can feel fully listened to, and/or

  • they can feel non-defensive with you, knowing that you won't try to fix them or give them advice, and/or

  • they can feel that you are treating them with dignity.

The gifts to both of you in your relationship together are...

  • you will feel more mutual respect and dignity, and/or

  • you will feel more intimacy, and/or

  • you will more easily be able to work out any issues you may have together, and/or

  • you will both have contributed to your relationship through your powerless listening of them by creating a win-win experience, instead of a win-lose or even a lose-lose one.

"Shoulds" are lies

Sometimes they are well-intentioned lies. Sometimes they seem like harmless lies. 

And one of the most toxic of all these "should" lies is that you have more power than you do or that you shouldn't be powerless.

See Undoing shoulds.

See You are powerless.

See Undoing fear.

See Listening.

See Listening to listening.

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