Can I Get a Witness?

“I don’t want you to fix it. I just want to vent and need someone to listen.”

I’m a fixer. When someone I care about shares a challenge they face, my natural desire is to contribute to a solution; to ease their suffering; to do what I can to help them find their joy. To fix it.

As my beautiful wife likes to remind me, “Sometimes we just need to complain and have somebody listen.”

Venting can be healthy in two important ways. Keeping emotion bottled up isn’t good for your body. I’m sure Colleen will outlive me for that reason. She wears hers on her sleeve. I swallow it.

The second plus is hearing yourself summarize frustration in the first person. Situations come into our lives as puzzle pieces. A good way to see the big picture is to articulate it.

Good witnesses let you get everything out. They ask clarifying questions, some of which may make you think about things in a different way. They reassure you that what you feel is valid. They gently reign you in if your rant goes beyond what may be healthy.

And they don’t judge.

I try to bracket my engagement with a question. “Do you want me to try to help fix this, or do you need a listener?”

Imagine what our world could be like if there were more witnesses and fewer judges?

Three Quotes for your Week:

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” – Ralph G. Nichols

“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.”- Dalai Lama

“The first duty of love is to listen.” – Paul Tillich