Why You Should Learn to Listen Like a Talk Therapist

by Melody Fletcher on March 8, 2011

Anna* came home on Friday after a long, rough day at work. All she wanted to do was take off her heels, pour herself a glass of wine and have a chat about her day with her husband Bill. Bill had had a tough day as well, and was having a beer on the couch, but readily agreed to listen to Anna’s account of things gone wrong at the office. He could see that Anna was stressed and he really wanted to help. But after just five minutes of conversation, Anna jumped up, yelled “You never listen to me!!” and stormed out of the room, leaving Bill to wonder what the hell had just happened, and what he’d done wrong.

What Bill did “wrong” is something that many of us will do when faced with the issues of someone we love. The second someone we care about shares the fact that they’re in pain in any way, we feel a deep seated responsibility to help them. We desperately want to make them feel better.  And so, we set about trying to “fix” their issues, offering helpful suggestions and solutions. And then, like Anna, our conversational partner flies off the handle and storms out.

What Anna was looking for, and what most people are looking for when they begin to talk about an issue, is not someone to fix their problems (unless they specifically ask for help), but rather, for someone to just listen. Countless relationship books will point this out, but I’d like to offer up an explanation of why the process of talking through problems is so beneficial.

If you’ve spent any time on this site, you’ll know that negative emotions are simply an indicator that you’re thinking thoughts that your inner being, deep down inside, doesn’t agree with. So, if you had a bad day at work, and you come home feeling drained and cranky, you’ve spent the day looking at your coworkers, meetings and any other situation in a way that doesn’t serve you. In order to feel better, you’ll need to find a different perspective. You may not have ever done this consciously, but trust me. Every time you’ve felt better about a situation after a conversation, it was because you shifted your perspective to a better feeling thought – a thought that was closer to what your inner being thinks about it.

You can think through your problems, but because it’s your thoughts that you’re trying to change, this can make it almost impossible to move to a different thought. It’s like fighting fire with fire. What you want to do is shift the energy of the thoughts by expressing them in a different way (other than just thinking them).

Journaling is incredibly useful and can really help to gain perspective of a situation. You have to organize your thoughts, and both the process of writing (one form of expressing energy) and reading your own words back (a different way to connect with that energy) can help lead to shifts in vibration. This also holds true for drawing, playing an instrument, dancing, etc. In short, expressing and connecting with the issue in different ways, can help you to gain a different perspective.

Talking is just another method, but a very powerful one, to create such a shift. When you express yourself verbally about a problem, you are streaming energy in a very different way than when you’re thinking, writing or reading. You’re actually using two different techniques at the same time: Talking and listening. As you talk, you will hear yourself speak. And even though you just said it, hearing it will connect you with the issue in a different way and offer an opportunity for a shift. You are verbally and energetically dissecting the issue and approaching it from different angles, looking for the perspective that feels better than your current one. You don’t have to be consciously aware of this, we all naturally seek relief in everything we do.

This process is actually a very personal one and has nothing at all to do with the listener. The talker is working their way up the emotional scale, looking for a better feeling thought. And left to their own devices, they will eventually be successful. It’s our natural state to feel good, and if we’re not stopped from doing so (by society, others, ourselves), we will always seek and find emotional relief. So, when the listener begins to butt in, offering logical suggestions and helpful comments, that process of looking for a better feeling perspective is interrupted. This is incredibly uncomfortable and can lead to some pretty angry reactions. When the talker is taking themselves through the process, the listener really should just shut up and listen.

So, why is the listener needed at all? Why not just put a stuffed toy on the couch and yap at it? Well, actually, the stuffed toy scenario can be pretty beneficial. You’re still expressing the issue verbally and listening to yourself do it. But the stuffed toy doesn’t have nearly the energetic output that another human being does (live things have more energy). So, when a person is in pain, the energy of another human being (or living thing, pets can very helpful as well) can offer relief, particularly if the listener is vibrating at a higher frequency than the talker (the listener feels better than the talker does).

The listener’s desire to fix everything comes from an intense desire to help. If you tend to jump in and offer solutions when someone has asked you to listen, but not asked for your advice, your motives come from a good place. But they’re misguided. You can’t fix another person’s energy. You can’t make them feel better. You can’t help them by offering what you think are obvious and simple solutions. Because when someone is talking through an issue to shift their energy, they’re not searching for solutions. They’re searching for the perspective that feels better. They’re searching for relief.

So, what can you do, if you’re the listener?

  1. Listen. Just shut up and listen. Really. Don’t offer any advice unless expressly asked to do so. If you look at it through the perspective of this article, you’ll hear the other person slowly work their way around to a better feeling place.
  2. If talking is required, play back the talker’s words to them. Summarize them in a different way, or simply repeat key phrases. This will offer another kind of energy stream, which the listener’s brain can interpret.
  3. If you offer anything, don’t offer solutions. Offer different perspectives. Listen to your intuition on this. If you don’t feel inspired to say anything, don’t. This is still dangerous territory. Offering a positive perspective of your wife’s hated boss before she’s ready to go there, may well lead to her accusing you of defending said hated boss, for example. Your intuition will let you know if she’s ready to hear your comment.
  4. Most importantly: Hold on to your higher vibration. This is truly the best thing you can do. You can help the other person find a better feeling thought – a higher vibration – more quickly, by holding a stable higher vibration yourself. They are looking to shift, they are ready to change their frequency. So provided you don’t allow their bad mood to affect yours, you can be the light at the end of the tunnel that guides them. Your higher vibration will literally pull theirs up to meet it. See them as whole, as happy, and know that they can find the better feeling thought. This vibrational assistance will do more good than any suggestion you could ever make.

I generally shy away from generalizations, but I do believe that in our society, the women of today were encouraged to express their emotions more while growing up, while the men were raised to be strong and emotionless. So generally speaking, men get the brunt of the blame for being bad listeners and trying to fix everything. But while our behaviors might differ due to social upbringing, talking through one’s thoughts and emotions is equally valuable for both genders, and “fixers” exist on both sides of the fence.

The next time your partner, friend or family member wants to talk, use the suggestions in this post and see what happens. If you’re traditionally a “fixer”, you might be incredibly surprised by the results you get this way. And if you’re a talker with a partner who never really got why they can’t just solve all your issues, try showing them this blog post. It may help to shift their perspective and give them a better understanding of what you need.

Was this blog post helpful? Leave a comment and let me know!

* = Names have been changed to protect the fictitious.
Image Source: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=1499


Sameer March 19, 2012 at 16:32

Hey Awesome Melody,

Yes, yes & yes this is powerful post to help… This will increase my hearing (patients) ability because, I use to jump on to the other side giving situation (as usual male upbringing issue)…

For couples, I believe making love and talking (before or after) is a great solution :)

Huge Hugs & Love with Thanks,

Melody Fletcher March 20, 2012 at 17:37

Hey Sameer,

A lot of men will want to jump right in there and offer a solution. It’s a natural impulse, and will be especially strong when you care deeply about a person. But after you’ve practiced this method a couple of times, you’ll feel the difference it makes. Trying to fix the problem means trying to get them to make a change so that you can feel better. Actually listening and keeping your energy high is about feeling good and then allowing your partner to get there in her own time…

Huge hugs!”
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Claire February 13, 2013 at 08:13

Hi Melody

I think it takes a lot of skills to refuse to listen to people’s complaining when you are not in a mood or simply want to feel better by refusing taking on more crap. I find it very challenging particularly when I am not able to hold my good feeling place with people who I am close to.



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