Ever had a friend who talked incessantly about their latest breakup? Every time you met, they can’t wait to share the latest happenings. At first you sympathize but before long, you start to tire of the drama. You dread the long conversations that are all about the breakup, you resent doing all the listening, and find yourself making excuses to avoid meeting up.
When people ask what I do, the most common question is this: “how can you listen to people’s problems without getting involved?”, followed by “I could never do that!” As a counsellor I spend most of my day listening to other people’s problems, but I am not exhausted by this, because I enjoy it and it’s what I am trained to do. However I do understand how demanding it can be, when a friend wants you to listen to their problems all the time, especially if they don’t show interest in your life. When you are a good listener, this can be a common experience.
Before sharing my tips, I’d like to distinguish between a friend who has hit a life crisis such as a death, who just needs some short term support, and would be happy to offer you the same thing, and the friend who is always complaining, going from one crisis to the next. These tips are for the latter situation, where you care for your friend, but are tired of listening, and feel your kindness is being taken advantage of.
- Set boundaries on how much time you want to listen.You might keep your meetings short, tell your friend you need a better balance of talk and listen time, so it works for you both, or simply assert yourself by talking more about your own life so they don’t take up all the air time.
- Spend more time together with a group of friends, and avoid spending long periods one to one with a friend who can’t resist bending your ear. This helps dilute the intensity, and gives you a break from listening too much.
- If you decide to listen, make sure you are in a good space emotionally. If it’s been a stressful day for you, it may not be a good day for you to pay attention to someone else’s woes. Instead you may need to talk about your own day, and have someone listen to you.
- You could suggest you take turns and time the talk time about problems, and then put them aside. When someone is upset, it can be hard for them to turn their attention to other topics, but it can actually be good for them to spend some time on other topics, because it gives their brain a break.
- If someone is having a really hard time, you might suggest they see a counsellor. Examples of when to consider this is when someone is battling heavy emotions, or are in repetitive life patterns that don’t serve them, or need help to make an important life or relationship decision. You may also just feel out of your depth and not know what to do. The advantages of a counsellor is that we are trained to help people with emotional problems to get emotional relief, gain insight into patterns from the past, and courage to move forward for a better future.
If you would like to chat with Grace about an issue you are struggling with, email her today and set up a complimentary 15 minute phone consultation, so you can get relief, insight and strategies.