We all have (and need at least ) one or more person in our lives we go and ‘vent to’ on a regular basis. They can be our partner, friend, co-worker, sibling etc etc. These support people in our life help us maintain our sanity on some level and prevent us from bottling up. As we know, it can be quite unhealthy to stew on things that upset us without speaking to the concerned party or anyone else about it . Over thinking about issues can lead to a person experiencing conditions such as Anxiety and Depression. Can you think of someone that you can speak to or someone that confides in you on a regular basis? If you can, you are blessed to share that relationship with someone, someone that you can trust, confide in and rely on to be there for you. Now I ask you this, could you be doing more damage than good by lending your ear?? In some cases, I think so!
I know I couldn’t have survived motherhood without the never-ending support and mutually beneficial venting sessions with my three girlfriends from my mother’s group. Six years and counting, we are there for each other! Whether it be to discuss the joys of toilet training or sleeping issues. It helped that we are all going through similar phases at the same time, but it is comforting to know that I am not the only one going through this. At times these venting sessions have turned into critical feedback or suggestions on what to do to make changes in the parent-child relationship as well. I find that we trust and respect each other enough to take the suggestions into serious consideration if not doing exactly what we are told to do 🙂 Well, enough of me and my support group…
When could your listening skills be harmful to you or other?
Here, I am specifically talking about people confiding in you with things concerning their physical or emotional well being. Especially if you are a professional in the field, dual relationships are harmful, unethical and that is all I have to say about that.
I find that venting can be divided into two categories – there is whinging about things that are expected and nothing can be done about – like kids peeing all over the floor while toilet training (ok, by now we all know what phase is my household going through) and then theres talking to your friend about things that upset them, impact them in various ways and they wished were different. The second category can create a pattern between your friend and you – every time they are upset about something, or the SAME thing in their life, they come and talk to you about it. It temporarily makes them feel better, makes you feel good about your friend reaching out to you and maybe even strengthens your relationship. You can suggest them a few things but more likely than not they won’t follow them because that is not what they want from you. They want you to listen, provide some insight, maybe even agree with them – but then thats all! Then something goes wrong again, maybe the same thing all over again, and they reach out to you, again.
Danger to you
If you are emotionally close to this person, in the long run, this can cause you to sympathise with them, feel for them and then feel what they are feeling too. Its only natural and expected especially in a close relationship. We are people with a range of emotions and it is near impossible for us in close relationships to view their emotions objectively. So we get drained and the course of the relationship changes, mostly because you have to protect yourself from feeling frustrated or sad FOR your friend. You stop taking pride in the fact that your friend reaches out to vent to you to discuss personal matters and start focusing on your well being.
How are you really helping?
Unless there is clarification (for their peace of mind and your conscious) that they are glad to have you as a sounding board but they are not really expecting to or working towards making changes. This is ok because they probably feel or realise that their expectations of change are unrealistic and they should accept things for the way they are. But if the person speaking to you want serious help – they need to speak to a professional! They can have you in a support capacity but are you inevitably hindering their progress, if you do not find the courage, the tact, the most appropriate and least hurtful method to tell this person that you care about so much – to go get real help!
For example: If you were being whinged to about a bad back and Paracetamol or other pain killers aren’t work, you would encourage them, maybe even ask them sternly to go see a Dr, get an x-ray done and see a specialist of some sort. Then why would you not encourage them to see professional help for issues related to emotions? It would be highly beneficial for anyone to seek an outsider’s objective opinion, even if they aren’t concerned about their emotional well being, and since this person confides in you, you have the ability to guide them in the right direction.
Is it because its a sensitive issue and you feel you lack the skills to approach the matter in a sensitive manner? Or are you worried about ruining the relationship more than the well-being of your friend? Should you be doing something to really help the other person?
Comments? Questions? Feedback?
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