Recently I received a request for help from a young person. They provided all the required information we need to award a scholarship, and ended their message with, “Thanx for the listen, Imma gonna die out here anyway, so if you can’t help, thx for listening.”

Thanks for listening. Wow. It’s such a little thing, but we hear this all the time. Individuals reaching out for help who are simply grateful to have someone listening to them when they ask for help. It’s such a little thing, but how often do we NOT listen – to our kids, our spouses, our friends, our colleagues and more.

Listening is an art. It’s also a gift to the person who is sharing with you.

Here are a few tips that will help you become a better listener:

  1. Be Present – there’s no such thing as multitasking when we are listening. To be truly present in a conversation, you are focused on the other person, you look them in the eye, you pay attention, and you do not do anything else. You are listening.
  2. Be Compassionate – Conversations aren’t always easy, they can be emotionally tasking on both the one sharing and the listener. To help yourself be more comfortable focus on the person speaking, not on your discomfort; try to put yourself in the other person’s position. Think ahead and find a quiet, private place to talk.
  3. Don’t Talk, Listen! – This seems obvious, since we are talking about becoming a better listener, but oddly, it’s pretty common for people to want to talk more and listen less. When should you talk? To mirror what is being said, to ask clarifying questions, and to help guide the person to a solution. Remember, this is their challenge, not yours. They need to solve it, not you.
  4. Respond quickly – Don’t put off the conversation, as uncomfortable as it might be, as much as you might dread it. The longer you wait, the more intense the conversation may become. It certainly won’t get easier if you wait. So bite the bullet, find the time, listen and pay attention, as soon as uou can.

Not everyone you have the opportunity to listen to will think they are going to die, but the reality is, you really don’t know what someone is going through, even if you listen carefully and empathetically. But for sure, you don’t want to miss the opportunity to give someone who is hurting the option of saying “Thx for listening.”

PS We are working to get my new friend into addiction treatment as I type. He needs detox and long term help. We will get it for him. He won’t die out there, not on my watch.