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Listening Is the Cheapest Medicine

Psychotherapy has been called “The Talking Cure.”

It might be more accurate to call it “The Listening Cure.”

Being listened to is healing, because it’s a way to be understood.

And being understood is like a tall, cool drink on a hot summer day.

Marriage & family therapist Cynthia Lubox speaks eloquently about the power of being listened to in this article:

When Someone Really Listens, We Heal

The key word in the title above is “Really.” As in, when someone really listens…

We don’t heal just by having someone hear our words. We heal when we feel truly and deeply heard.

A True Friend Hears What You Don’t Say

I once had a powerful experience of being heard, where I didn’t have to say a word.

It happened at, of all places, a bachelorette party.

It was the beginning of the evening, and we were all sitting down to dine at a restaurant. The atmosphere was noisy and chaotic.

I don’t remember the details, but maybe I was subtly ignored or dissed by one of the other women as we were taking our seats. Whatever it was, I was shocked and humiliated.

I remember feeling stung but assuming no one else noticed — there were many conversations going on at the same time.

Suddenly I heard a whisper in my ear. It was the voice of a good friend, who’d seated herself beside me.

“I’m totally with you,” she said.

I turned and looked her in the eye, and saw that she had heard my silent scream of “Ouch!”

She’d noticed what had happened between the other woman and me, and with a look she told me what she thought of the woman’s behavior.

I was instantly cured of what ailed me. In that moment, my feelings had been heard even though I hadn’t uttered a word.

It meant so much to me to be “heard” in that moment, I felt 100% better. My friend’s empathy removed the thorn and put on a soothing bandage of validation.

You can make a huge difference to someone just by listening to them, and understanding their experience. It’s an incredibly bonding thing to do, so it helps you as well as them.

Let’s all try to be there for someone we care about this week. Or maybe for someone we barely know.

When you see someone in distress, let them know you understand.

Listen to them, even if they don’t say a word.

Let me know how it goes.

About Tina Gilbertson

Tina Gilbertson is a psychotherapist, speaker and author based in Denver, Colorado. She specializes in supporting parents of estranged adult children through therapy, consulting and other resources, and offers assertiveness training and executive coaching for organizations. The author of "Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings by Letting Yourself Have Them" and the "Guide for Parents of Estranged Adult Children," Tina is often featured in the media as an expert on communication and relationships. Her blog on PsychologyToday.com is called "Constructive Wallowing."
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0 Responses to "Listening Is the Cheapest Medicine"

  • Nana
    April 5, 2014 - 6:20 pm Reply

    Thank you Tina. This is an excellent topic. My granddaughter this afternoon accused me of not listening to her. She said ” no one listens to me.” We had a wonderful disused that it takes two not one to listen & she agreed to have more eye contact, stop mumbling and accuse others as freely for what she meant to have said but did not.

    We live in a very rushed culture, often people don’t have time to express them self fully and assume you know when they them self don’t know them self. Life is more than the elevator speech or tech message. Real communication can not be taught in schools. It takes place on the dinning table, walk in park & most definitely not on Facebook. We need eye contact, a pat on the shoulder & we all can do with hugs or a hand squeezes. I am willing to LISTEN but not willing to be ACCUSED for not LISTENING.
    You are right we need more real empathy & real computational skills to have better listening skills.

    • Tina Gilbertson
      April 5, 2014 - 6:58 pm Reply

      You’re right, Nana. Sometimes we expect others to read our minds, and then resent them for not “listening.”

      Very young children DO need to be read, because they don’t yet have the skills to communicate about their inner lives. When we read their expressions and put words to what they might be feeling, it helps them develop the language to do this for themselves.

      (It also teaches them empathy, but that’s for another post.)

      Adults, however … Well, we’re mostly on our own. We still WANT to be read (at least I do), but we don’t have the same right as children to *expect* important others to read us.

      Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to share your thoughts. I always enjoy hearing from readers!

  • Anya
    April 7, 2014 - 9:26 am Reply

    Great article. I think interacting with someone who truly listens, with presence, kindness, and curiosity, is also one of the best antidotes for feeling invisible–another subject you write about with frequency.

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