a few questions to kick start reflection
what were you taught to be? a speaker or rather a listener?
what do you value more today, listening or speaking?
do you 'listen' to the other person's body language as well?
are you sure to know what a friend is wanting from you when he/she is sharing a difficulty they encounter in their lives? or is it your habit to automatically take responsibility from the other and listening becomes a job?
"I believe listening means solving problems" - really?
maybe one of these reflections resonates with you: "I believe listening means trying to solve problems." or do you notice how quickly you want to give advice and feel responsible for what could happen if you don't? or you feel it's too difficult to see someone in pain (confused, depressed, scared, hurt) and "I simply can't help not to jump in and say "everything will be okay".
"I was so relieved knowing I wouldn't get advice"
when someone is sharing a difficulty, most of the time all they want is to be heard. for the listener this means to be present with what is happening for the other tight now - without trying to fix anything or change their experience. JUST LISTENING.
this is what makes the difference and what opens the door to a deeper connection. when there is this deep connection one of the following might come up for the one who was sharing: "It feels so good to be heard" "I am relieved not to get advice" "getting the space to just speak, without interruption, helped me to get a clearer insights into my situation" "feeling fully heard by you I can hear myself now too - and can let go."
"do you need to just be heard or do you want my thoughts on this?"
but, we are not always in a place to be ready and open to listen - and this is perfectly ok. maybe you feel restless or resentful while you are listening, your head is aching with all the analysis and problem solving you're doing or, although you were decided not to, you start to offer advice - and when you reach out to console the other with a hug he/she pulls away. and you start to feel truly tired and disconnected, while the other keeps talking and talking. In all these cases it's high time for serious self-care and healthy boundaries.
you are not responsible for meeting other people's needs or expectations
to regain our inner space for self-care and true presence we can say something like: "I want to hear you but I am starting to feel confused. can you tell me what you are wanting back from me in sharing this with me?" "would it help to say back what I understood so far?" "I notice in my head that start to get busy with problem solving. Is hearing my ideas on this issue something you are looking for?"
just enjoy listening
make it your new habit to always ask when you are listening, what the other expects from you. remind yourself that you are not responsible for meeting other people's needs nor expectations - and rarely invited to offer your opinion and advice.
Listening intimately means to set aside our own ideas and agendas and hold quiet space of presence for the other. This often means that intimate conversations are slow.
Since we are not preparing what we are going to say while the other person is speaking, there is often a pause between each bit of sharing and attention moves back and forth between the other's experience and our own.
LaShelle Chardé "Defining intimacy" http://www.wiseheartpdx.org