In the video “It’s not about the nail” a woman sits on the couch with her partner and complains of terrible headaches that simply won’t go away. She has no idea what’s causing them. The camera pans out to reveal a large nail in her forehead.

It’s a shocking picture and obvious what her problem is. Her partner says “you’ve got a nail in your head – I bet if we got that out of there…” She cut him short. “It’s not about the nail!!” she says. “You always do this. You always try to fix things when what I really need is for you to listen”.

This graphic example illustrates one reason why it’s so hard to listen to someone in distress.

When someone is talking of their pain you will be affected. You will feel it. You may well have a strong urge to ease your own discomfort and try to fix them rather than simply listening to them with compassion. (com = with; passion = feeling)

Good listening takes courage. It requires you to trust that the other person will eventually work out for themselves what they need to do.

Your task is to manage your own emotions so as not to be swamped by their feelings. You will feel what they feel for a time but you are not them. You are you. The other person needs you to be with them and not to be overwhelmed. Acknowledge what they are feeling without judgement and trust that they will come through this difficult time and find a resolution for themselves.

Talking things out and being heard and accepted helps a person more than you might realise.

This is one challenge to being a good listener.

Watch the 2 minute video here

You can learn more about managing emotions in your life with the Thriving Under Fire programme. Ask us how.