Archive for the ‘Listening’ Category

Empower Others Through Listening

February 4, 2012

Sometimes, simply listening to a friend talk about her problems can be more empowering for your friend than offering advice.

I was headed to the beach for my morning run and as I passed through Veterans Park, I overheard a woman consoling her friend, telling her how horrible she must be feeling and how badly she wished she could fix her friend’s problem. I’m not sure if this is what her friend really needed to hear at the time, and it made me wonder if this type of comment really made the friend feel better—or worse?

I can recall a few times in life when I had someone there for me to offer support or to bounce ideas off of and bring me back into focus. I think of my parents, siblings and closest friends who’ve been so supportive.

All of us need support from time to time. Have you ever received support from a coach, friend, family member or co-worker that seem to radiate like a beam of sunshine, driving you into the right action? Perhaps this allowed you to move forward and make a decision that you courageously chose for yourself—all because you knew you had their support behind whatever choice you made. Maybe it was a result of the right questions a friend asked you at the time, or you just knew you had your family’s full support in all your endeavors.

On the flip side, maybe you have shared a dilemma with a friend in hopes of feeling better and adopting a more positive attitude, only to find you felt worse than you did before you opened up to your friend. Your friend may have said something such as, “Oh, you poor thing! I can’t believe that happened to you. You must feel just horrible. I wish I could fix that for you.” Your friend’s well-meaning intentions of offering sympathy left you feeling down, negative and disempowered.

We’ve all fallen into the victim mode before, whether we were the one trying to offer sympathy or we were the one receiving it. It can be tempting over-sympathize when someone we care about is suffering; however, this is not positive support.

Instead, we can choose to listen compassionately to someone’s dilemma, bring hot soup to a sick friend or offer a fresh perspective on a challenging situation.

The key is when offering support, we want the receiver to feel loved, encouraged and empowered. This way, we are helping them to make a positive choice, take positive action and come out of their situation quickly—not stay stuck.

Here are some tips to help empower someone who is seeking support:

  • Focus on the person’s positive strengths. Choose to help them rise to a higher level by offering empathy and compassion. We can be present for someone’s pain or suffering and help them remember their inner strengths and positive resources. Often, this can be the best gift to someone who is struggling. I once told a longtime friend of mine, “You are such a strong, positive person. I know you will pull through this and come out wiser.” You can only imagine how this encouraging comment was the ticket to her finding a re-inspired perspective on her situation and life.
  • We may understand exactly how someone is feeling because we have gone through a very similar experience before; however, this doesn’t mean we will fix this person’s problem for them. We can feel what they are going through because we’ve been there, too. We can allow our experience to help empower this person. I recently ran into a friend of mine at Starbucks in the Peninsula Center in Rolling Hills Estates. The last time I had seen her, she was going through one of life’s most difficult situations, and I could very much relate, having gone through something similar. I have always seen her as a fully functional human being who will know the next step that needs to be taken. I can recall, at the time she was going through her dilemma, I told her: “I sense your struggling right now, and I’m sorry you have to go through this. What are you going to do?” Now, my friend is happy and has moved on from the challenging situation and seems to be quite positive, wiser and self-empowered.
  • Listening without judgment offers empathy. We’ve all been taught to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. Don’t, however, try to fix their problem for them. Listening with compassion and allowing them to share their feelings helps them get it out, which may be all they need from you at this time. When you listen, you offer empathy, which can allow them to feel better and choose empowering action, whereas sympathy tends to focus on reacting—sometimes to the point where we take on their feelings and feel their pain. We are not meant to suffer along with others; we need to remember that their painful situations will assist their self-growth.
  • Asking questions helps them talk more about their feelings and focus on their own solution. Nevertheless, sometimes when we offer advice and solutions, we are not doing them a favor in any way—and we can even make them feel disempowered. No self-growth can take place for them. Instead of telling them what to do, listen, ask a few questions and guide them toward what they feel is the right answer or next step to take. How empowered have you felt when you were in a difficult situation and had the opportunity to express your feelings and come up with your own solution? Remember to do this next time you find yourself in contact with someone who is struggling.
  • Check in with them. Sending a quick email might help lighten their mood. Remind them to see the humorous side of the situation. Providing humor and encouragement can be an excellent supportive gesture for some of us. I was having a conversation with a friend at Lido di Manhattanwhen the friend reminded me to remember the humor in life’s challenges. Nevertheless, just as humor can be the therapeutic dose for some, love and positive thoughts can be what is needed for others. Just knowing that someone is thinking positive thoughts about you can be the perfect supportive remedy for some.

Each situation calls for different types of support and encouragement. Often we may not know much about the challenges someone is facing, but offering to be available to listen to them may be all that is needed. Who knows, it might be the best gift we can offer them at the time.

Read Uber Empowerment Books.

Quality Conversations Strengthen Ties

July 28, 2011

Do you remember the last time you had a conversation you thoroughly enjoyed? I recently shared a wonderful conversation with a friend of mine. I thought about it as I drove home from Terranea in Palos Verdes. The atmosphere was spectacular—we were sitting outdoors on a summer evening and gazing out at the ocean view—but I realized there was something deeper that made our conversation so authentic.

We establish a connection with someone through truly listening and learning about him or her, which enhances our interaction with the person in the future. Sharing from the depth of your being creates a rare, sacred bond and a memorable experience.

When we speak truthfully, deeply and briefly with another person, we create a soulful connection. Sharing can be powerful and allow us to engage in a meaningful and quality conversation. Sharing also helps us get things off our chest.

Many people find sharing difficult. Do you ever respond to a simple “How are you?” with a long weather report full of unrelated details? Or is your typical response a brief, superficial “fine, thanks”? Both of these responses can conceal who we really are at the moment.

When we share, we do not always have to disclose our deepest and darkest secrets. It is not even necessary to release an emotion we are not comfortable to disclose. The key is to reveal your authentic, personal experience to your listener. A conversation like this can be deeply felt, sincere, candid and offer a special connection.

Choosing to be consciously aware of your interpersonal communication skills can help grow and strengthen your relationships with others. Here are a few tips:

  • One of the most powerful things you can do while sharing a deep conversation is to fully listen from the heart. It can be a challenge sometimes because we can be tempted to give advice, launch a discussion or throw in some of our own comments by sharing a related situation of our own. Try to postpone any response of your own and simply listen—focus on what the person is sharing.
  • Sometimes you may have to ask the person listening to not make any suggestions or offer solutions.
  • Showing respect can be as simple as not interrupting and being fully present while they are talking. This allows for the conversation to become more effective, meaningful, useful and often more interesting.
  • Asking questions shows someone that you are interested in what they are sharing; however, try not to speak too often or too long. Try not to fill in the silence as this can keep you from truly connecting with others. By being mindful of how often you speak, you will gain the opportunity to really learn and be creative through hearing others views about what you have to say.
  • Generate a feeling of trust, safety and confidentiality by acknowledging and respecting the other person’s desire to share.
  • Show true interest. Others are more attracted to those who are interested in them and will pay more attention to what they are saying.
  • Eye contact is one of the most important positive signals you can give.
  • Sometimes the other person has a different point of view than you do. Find out more about why they have that point of view. The more you understand the reasons behind their thinking, the more you can understand their point of view or help them to better understand your point of view.

When you feel a conversation went really well, reflect on why you think it went so well and remember to use some of those interpersonal communication skills again. If you feel the conversation didn’t go as well as you would have liked it to, ask yourself why you think this is so and how you could improve for next time. We can learn from all of our interactions.

Find more inspiration in my Uber Empowerment Books. Get a sneak peek at some of my Uber Empowering Quotes in this video and you will find more empowerment quotes in my books.


Find more empowerment and inspiration in my Uber Empowerment books.

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