When I sat down to write this blog post, I had all the intentions in the world of telling the story of the open night at the brewery – about how we had turned tail after work to walk to the brewery on the edge of town, and drank free beer all night – about how we had quietly waited in line to swap raffle tickets for pints of beer, and about how I had bought a (very expensive) bottle of Chase Vodka to bring home for my other half.
Then one conversation turned all my plans for literary wonderment on their head.
A conversation about listening.
I’m not sure if everybody has the same experience, but it turns out that not many people are good at listening. Certainly very few men. When somebody confides a story in you – unloading the burden that they’ve been carrying on their shoulders in secret for however long – they are typically not looking for you to offer any advice at all. They just want you to sit and listen.
You could almost use the Chewbacca scene from “The Force Awakens” as a listening 101 course for idiots. The bit where the nurse is patching Chewbacca up while he talks endlessly about the hell he has recently experienced, and where the nurse comments “oh, you must have been very brave”.
That’s what listening is all about – offering positive cues. The clue is in the word really – “listening”. Not “solving”, or “commenting”. Nobody ever sat down to unburden their troubles and said “please tell me what you would have done in this situation”. It just doesn’t happen.
And yet so often people can’t help themselves. They want to be seen to help – not realising that they already helped (or rather, could have helped if they kept their mouth shut) purely by being there – by sitting and listening.
p.s. the night out at the brewery was fun. In the grand tradition of rare nights out with friends, I’m going to say “we should do that more often”, but we know we will not, because life will get in the way.