When a friend once opened up about his problems, I immediately jumped to give him solutions. At some point, he stopped me and told me that he didn’t want my solutions – he merely wanted me to listen.
When somebody opens up with their problems, our impulse is to give them solutions. While we might think of this act as generous, it is often selfish.
Listening to somebody’s problems is painful. When somebody talks about their problem, they fill the conversation with tension and discomfort. To resolve this tension, we often jump in with a remedy. While we think we are doing this to help, we often do this to alleviate our own discomfort.
Avoiding the tension related to a problem will result in premature solutions. It is only by engaging with tension and dancing with discomfort do we find effective solutions. Therefore, it is generous to listen to somebody’s problem, engage with their discomfort and help somebody get to the other side.