An Important Tip to Become a Better Listener

Listen Better

I saw this on Facebook today: "Normalize not sharing a relatable story about yourself when someone shares something about themselves, and just listen." 

(note: normalizing doesn't mean eliminating, so don't feel bad if you do this - there is a time and a place for everything!)

I know how hard this is, and most people think that this is showing the person that they're not alone or that they can relate. And yes, at times it can be more of a competition, but I'm not sure that's the most common reason someone shares a relatable story.

There are times when you may be just talking to a friend and in chit chat mode when this can feel really fun, supportive and energizing.

And for me, for a long time, I liked when people did this because it deflected the attention away from me. I could share something but then quickly move on and not need to feel or go too deep.

As I started to do more healing work, I became more aware that what I really wanted was to feel heard and understood. Yes, it was always nice if someone could relate but it sometimes felt that they were projecting THEIR idea of the experience on me, rather than trying to understand MY experience. And often, it would shift the conversation to them and I'd end up feeling even more alone and unheard.

Now I'm more discerning about who I share those more vulnerable stories with. And interestingly, when someone does this (shares a relatable story), I'm able to listen to THEM. I don't feel so impacted by it.

But it's a good one to watch for, especially if you wish to be a safe person for people to share their heart with. I think that, generally speaking, most people want to feel heard even more than that someone can relate to them. Especially because no one can REALLY understand your unique experience without listening beyond their own "ideas" and own "similar" experience.

As with most everything, it's not black and white. For sure there are times when sharing your story is exactly what's needed. And, likely, times when you've felt like another person's story has really felt supportive and helpful. 

What seems to work best for me is to notice my intention (if I feel any urgency, I know it's my ego). And to allow a lot of space to listen first. There will always be time to share a relatable story (even another time or a later phone call). For me, it's not that I don't ever share the relatable story, I just try my very best to listen first. And I try to make sure I'm sharing because it - indeed - is in support of the other person, not just me wanting to "show" that I can relate.

What's your experience? Is this news for you? Are you working on it? Already an excellent listener?

Stick with me and you will notice shifts. Please share this with a friend or two if you think they might like this article!


Ready to slow down and take better care of yourself? I can teach, and show you the road, but I cannot carry you on the path towards self-love and authenticity. You must walk the walk, climb your own mountain. But if you want to go with me, and other women on the path, you may want to check out Self-Love Basecamp.

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1 comment

Deborah Blum Staff

I had shared this on Facebook and a dear friend responded with this and I thought maybe it'd be useful to share it here: 

"I think with some people this is absolutely true.
I also think that some people are fed by shared experiences but it’s a fine line and a skill that takes presence. My best friend and I have managed to hone this skill with one another. We listen, validate and ask questions...and then sometimes say, I can so relate, I’ve experienced something similar and also felt...
It’s my experience that some people really love and feel cared for by shared experiences and some just need a listening ear."

As with most everything, it depends on the situation and person. This is just one more possibility to add to your communication toolbox :) 
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