Listen to people if you want to help them. It’s the most helpful thing you can do. It’s far more effective than giving advice.

When you listen to others it allows them to talk things out, and helps them define what’s going on inside.

Giving advice makes you feel better, but it makes them feel worse.

Listening to people makes them feel better, but may make you feel worse.

Because you want to come to their rescue. You want to be a hero. You want to make their problem go away. And you’ll feel inadequate when you can’t.

But people don’t need to be rescued. They just need you to listen.

I came across a poem several years ago that captures this concept so beautifully. I wrote about it in a blog post a year ago, and find myself drawn to it again and again when I think just listening to people to help them isn't enough.

No one knows who wrote the poem. Its reference to a 20 cent newspaper tells us it’s an old poem. I like old.

It’s reference to how God works is somewhat questionable. Nevertheless, like all good poetry, it conveys important truths with few words.

Please Listen

When I ask you to listen to me
and you start giving me advice,
you have not done what I asked.
When I ask you to listen to me
and you begin to tell me why
I shouldn’t feel that way,
you are trampling on my feelings.
When I ask you to listen to me
and you feel you have to do something
to solve my problem,
you have failed me,
strange as it may seem.
Listen! All I ask is that you listen.
Don’t talk or do – just hear me.
Advice is cheap; 20 cents will get
you both Dear Abbey and Billy Graham in the same newspaper.
And I do for myself; I am not helpless.
Maybe discouraged and faltering,
but not helpless.
When you do something for me that I can and need to do for myself,
you contribute to my fear and inadequacy.
But when you accept as a simple fact
that I feel what I feel,
no matter how irrational,
then I can stop trying to convince
you and get about this business
of understanding what’s behind
this irrational feeling.
And when that’s clear, the answers are
obvious and I don’t need advice.
Perhaps that’s why prayer works, sometimes, for some people – because God is mute,
and he doesn’t give advice or try to fix things.
God just listens and lets you work
it out for yourself.
So please listen, and just hear me.
And if you want to talk, wait a minute
for your turn – and I will listen to you.

~ Author Unknown

I'd love to hear your thoughts on helping people by listening to them. So please leave a reply.

There isn't much written about listening, but a good book I read recently on the subject is I Hear You – The Surprisingly Simple Skill Behind Extraordinary Relationships by Michael Sorensen. I'll be talking about this book in a future You Were Made for This podcast episode sometime in season 4, which by the way, resumes in just 28 days on September 9th!

Our You Were Made for This podcast focuses heavily on the subject of listening. If wanting to help people by listening to them interests you, you can learn more by checking out two episodes in particular.  There's no. 67 that aired a few months ago on June 3, “Self Monitoring How We Listen,” and no. 33 from September 11, 2019, “The Power of One Simple Question.”

There's more to come next Wednesday.  In the meantime, you can browse below through all 3 seasons and 67 episodes of You Were Made for This.