Has someone ever shared something with you and immediately you know what to do? Hmmm…me too. I spend hours during the week mentoring young adults and feel sometimes like a therapist. I’ve worked hard to earn the right to be heard in their lives, but sometimes I realize I like to be “heard” too much. Most of the time when I spend time with our young adults, they don’t need my advice, instead they need someone to listen. They want to vent, laugh and share. They don’t want me to fix it, change it, move it, or shift it. They just want to be heard.
I can’t tell you how many times a student has shown up to tell me something and instead of listening to the full story, I start jumping in and start giving advice. Immediately, you can see when I open my mouth, it shuts off communication or at least the free flowing of the communication. When we want to “fix it” for others, it comes off that we show up with an agenda. There’s no listening ear involved when an agenda is involved. There’s no compassion, empathy or love. Advice doesn’t need to be offered unless asked for. A teacher once told me, “Listening to others shows love and fixing people has an agenda”.
Building community is hard work, but it’s in the hard work of examining how we communicate with others that we build healthier community. For years I have joked with my staff, volunteer leaders, and students that I “lecture out of love” but in all reality, I was trying to fix everyone. It’s so easy to move into fixing mode for me but after being on the receiving end of it for the past year or so in different friendships, I realize firsthand how hurtful it can be. That same teacher also said, “unwanted advice is nearly always heard as criticism” and that it hit home for me. I need to do better to not fall into the mind trap of fixing it so people don’t hurt or even more so, so I can just move on for the sake of time. Loving others is sometimes inconvenient with your schedule, but it’s so much better in the end to keep showing up for our villages. So my encouragement to you is this: show up with an open mind, learn to listen, and keep your mouth shut until asked asked for advice. Let’s keep leaning in so that we can listen to others so that they feel loved and not criticized in order to build healthy community.