This blog is written by Lee Gale Gruen to help Baby Boomers and seniors find joy, excitement, and satisfaction in their lives after retirement from a job, career, parenting, etc. Her public lectures on this subject are entitled, “Reinventing Yourself in Your Senior Years.” Her memoir, available on Amazon.com, is: Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class (Click here for website link: http://AdventuresWithDadTheBook.com)
NEWS: The interview I announced on my last blog has been temporarily postponed. I’ll post it again when it’s rescheduled.
Now, on to my blog:
Are we all buzzing around on send-mode but rarely on receive-mode? My forty-four-year-old son taught me this distinction. One time, when he was upset about something and was telling me about it, I immediately segued into my problem solving role. He became irritated and defensive. “Mom, I don’t want you to fix it. I just want you to listen.”
I’m definitely a problem solver–the “fix-it” type. Are you that type? Do you find that when you’re just trying to help someone with your sage advice, worldly wisdom, or unsolicited opinion, they become defensive and suddenly dump all their anger on you? Maybe they don’t want your advice, wisdom, or opinion. Maybe they just need to rant.
Learning to be a good listener is an art. That’s why counselors, therapists, life-coaches, etc. get paid the big bucks. They have mastered the art of just listening with an occasional “oh,” or “uh-huh,” or “I see.”
Occasionally, we all need a sounding board. There isn’t necessarily a solution to what we’re upset about. We just want to verbalize it. Somehow, doing so to the wall or a chair just doesn’t cut it. Why an inert human being hearing our angry commentary seems so comforting is a mystery. Maybe it just makes us feel valid that another sentient being, preferably a human one, cares enough to spend time with us and just listen.
Now, when my son discusses something that is bothering him and I slip into fix-it mode, I try hard to remember to ask, “Do you want my input, or do you just want me to be a good listener?” I don’t always catch myself and am still a work-in-progress, but when I do, it has avoided so many arguments, misunderstandings, and hurt feelings. I show that I’m being supportive, that I respect him for being able to handle it himself, and that I’m not being intrusive.
Try it, even if you have to put a piece of tape over your mouth while you’re doing so. It may save a lot of friction in your relationships.
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