The Number One Lesson In Life: Stop Fixin' and Start Listenin'

Photo by  kyle smith  on Unsplash

Photo by kyle smith on Unsplash

I’m not going to name names here, but I used to know this person who had answers for EVERYONE (and every circumstance) about how to deal with life. This all-knowing individual thought that opining these thoughts and assessments was not only interesting but helpful to others. This person talked a lot and interrupted far too often.

You probably get the picture, and perhaps you’ve known someone like this in your life.

So now I’ll pull back the curtain and admit that I was that person in my younger years. Honestly, it’s a wonder I have friends at all. Hopefully I remember myself far worse than I was, but I’m so grateful for the wisdom to have learned to stop fixin’ and do more listenin’.


Having learned this lesson doesn’t mean I practice it all the time, but as I’ve aged I’ve improved. I try to be more self-aware and recognize that in order to care for others I need to listen more and speak less. I’ve honed listening as a personal historian and strive to make a better effort with my family and friends every day (especially with my husband and children).

Celeste Headlee nails this point in her TED Talk titled 10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation. All her points are enlightening, but I especially liked her suggestion that we engage in conversation “with the assumption we have something to learn.” This is a refreshing flip from thinking of ourselves, which she quotes as an important message. “True listening requires a setting aside of one’s self.” (M. Scott Peck)


It seems like a no-brainer because I, myself, have been torqued numerous times by the unsolicited advice of others, but the deal is that nobody is fixed by someone else telling them how to do it. When someone outside offers a solution, it isn’t often delivered with thoughts of how the recipient will hear it. True caring comes with giving time and an attentive ear so that the other person can work their way through their thoughts. The listener gives the gift allowing the speaker room to tap into their innate wisdom and find their way.


This happens, and sadly I’ve probably been guilty at some time, but equating our experience with someone else’s is not, in fact, listening. It’s kind of a one-upmanship tactic that detracts from being present for the other and actually turns attention away from the speaker.

Perhaps the error comes by way of suggesting that my experience is similar, so I “understand,” when in fact we are each experiencing something from our own vantage. Each person has their own experience, and nobody can completely equate another experience as the same.

We walk in separate shoes and the best we can do is walk along beside each other and listen.

I’ve found it so rewarding during interviews to completely set aside my comments and thoughts during a session because, of course, they are not relevant to the story being told. I strive to listen compassionately and don’t even want to add my emotional responses because I believe it detracts from honoring the speaker’s experience as their own. Of course, this approach depends on the relationship and the situation.