This last month I had a girlfriend break up with her boyfriend. She had been battling an up and down relationship for the last 2 years. She came to work crying declaring that it is finally over. Another girlfriend of mine called me for advise because she felt lost in her life, not finding the right job, no income, and couch surfing along with maintaining a long distance relationship. I realized how important it is not only to be a friend and provide a listening ear, but not to control the conversation with my sympathy and counter stories of ‘me’. Here are some tools to giving great advise and learning to communicate in ways that will change the way to speak and listen to anyone!
- Repeat what they said– Especially when our friends or family call us to vent, they end up spilling everything out. “I lost my job, I am unhappy with what I do now, I like food and gardening, but I don’t know how to get into it, what do I do? I’m broke and can’t get a job where should I work? My boyfriends mad at me how do I get him back?…etc. Instead of jumping in and trying to answer their questions back to back in your own ‘rant’. Repeat what they said so you both clearly know. “So what I heard you say is that you lost your job and you are unhappy with what you do now”. So what I heard you say is, your boyfriend is mad at you and you want to know how to get him back”. “What I heard you say is that you like food and gardening, but you don’t know how to get into it”. Why repeat this back to them? Two reasons;
- One, This allows the person to hear exactly what they are saying and more importantly what they are thinking inside their head and in mirror form. This allows the person who is venting to hear what they sound like from an objective point of view, this loosens the tight grip the ego has on the brain and thus the person can decide if that is truly something they are committed to feeling and repeating over and over again in their head. IT IS ABSOLUTELY IMPERATIVE that you only repeat back exactly what you hear them say, NOT a paraphrased version, it has to be exact in order for this to work properly. As friends, loved ones, and family members, all we want to do is fix the situation and unintentionally put a band-aid on it so that they feel better. This helps no one. Not you and especially not them.
- Second, this allows the person to feel fully heard. On the receiving end when someone mirrors what you said exactly and how you said it, you feel heard but not just from a nodding head but from someone who is intently listening. If it's long, stop them and repeat back what you have so far and then ask them to continue on. This could help them to begin diffusing even during the time they are venting. We all have the answers deep inside us, many times we don’t need advice as much as we need to take the power away from what it sounds like when the same idea is rolling around inside your brain with no one to show you what it really looks and sounds like. This is not just for turmoil but a way of communicating no matter what the situation. Happy, sad, angry, confused, bored, even just going to run errands and telling someone in your house before you leave what you are doing. “Great so what I heard you say is, you are going to the store to pick up sweet potatoes and Almond milk”. If done throughout the day as a practice this can open up the flood gates of communication both on a micro and macro level of existence. Everything becomes much more clear and most importantly genuine and not fake.
- What is Advice?– People call for advice because they need to know they are not alone in what they are going through. They call others that they know have been through something similar or have seen or heard them get through something in ways they wanted to try. My girlfriend who felt lost’ called me because she knew I meditated and wanted to explore that to help her go through what she was dealing with. She knew I was going through life at some sort of peace with meditation as my healer and daily practice.
- Check up– I think it’s very important to check in with your friend or family member who you gave your advice too. Did it help them? Did it help you? Most advice we get is to be passed on. I usually check in a couple days later, depending on the situation to see how things played out.