“I am losing my energy and I am so tired of this pain—so tired of searching for answers—I can’t stand to visit one more doctor and tell him about my fourteen-year battle with chronic pain. . .”
As my friend talks about her feelings, what am I doing?
Am I totally focused on what my friend is saying, or am I quickly searching for how I can respond? Am I wondering how I can pep her up, how I can fix her situation?
Then my friend stops talking, and I have a choice: how will I respond?
What I want to do is jump right in with positive advice, but instead I remember the advice of Kelsey Crowe, Ph.D and author of There is No Good Card for This: “After your friend shares a piece of bad or scary news, practice waiting three seconds before responding. If you jump in too soon, you may prevent her from expressing everything she wants to say.”
Just wait three seconds. That is no easy task. Three seconds of silence is a very long time. . . especially when I have so much “wisdom” I want to share with her. (Ha! Ha!)
But I wait and silently count: 1001, 1002, 1003 . . .
And then—just as I think my friend will say no more—she speaks into the silence. My friend describes how difficult it is to get out of bed in the morning. She talks about not wanting to stay in bed. . .but also not wanting to get up because the pain is too horrible in the morning. Then she says, “Let’s talk about something positive.” That extra three seconds has given her space to complete her thought.
Kelsey Crowe reminds us that helpful listening “means encouraging someone to talk, and when he stops, allowing three whole seconds of silence before you talk.” Give the hurting person “space” to tell their story without interruption.
Wait three seconds. Practice it! It takes time!