Awesome Apprenticeship: August

We asked Courtney Ramirez to be our Awesome Apprentice; she’s taking the 52 Weeks to Awesome course and will be writing us a post at the end of each month to share her experiences with us.

Four Ways to Listen Rather than Solve Problems

Look how excited she is!

Working on listening – rather than fixing people’s problems – is something that I find hard to do.

I am a problem solver. I want to make things better for others. When my husband, who homeschools our children, comes to me with an issue, I instantly want to solve the problem. I want to change my schedule so I can take away the problem. I want to relieve his pain.

I instantly come up with a million solutions, most of which are impractical.

In the past, this has resulted in him feeling even more frustrated and me feeling guilty for owning a business. But really, all he wanted to do was be heard. He wanted to vent. He didn’t need a solution.

I’ve found that people default into one of two modes – listening or solving. And if you’re a solver like me it can be hard to switch gears. Based on the 52 Weeks to Awesome lesson, I’ve come up with this protocol to use so I know what’s needed and when.

1. Ask!

Now, whenever my husband comes to vent, I ask if he wants a solution or just my ears and presence. This gets me in the right mindset so I know what to do as he’s talking.

2. Really pay attention to what is being said.

My second tendency, once I was in listening mode, was thinking that just because he is venting, the words didn’t matter. But that’s not listening! That’s just being a human-sized wall! I started really paying attention to what was being said and asking questions about his feelings.

3. Resist the urge to take things personally.

Venting isn’t about blame; it’s about release. It’s about talking things out and working through them verbally.

My initial impulse was to assume that his problems were my fault because we made the decision for me to run the business and for him to homeschool. As he spoke, I felt more and more guilty. But that’s not the point of listening and wasn’t the point of him speaking with me. I removed my personal feelings from the situation and was able to be a better listener.

4. Don’t be afraid to offer advice if it’s asked for.

Just because I’m listening doesn’t mean that I can’t be a problem solver. Once the venting is done, we’ve made space for me offering advice if it’s necessary – but only after I’m done listening.

How about you? Are you a problem solver or an automatic listener? What are your tips for being a better listener?

Courtney Ramirez is a content, seo and marketing superhero consultant by day and geeky BBC sitcom watching mom and wife by night. When not developing carpal tunnel by writing for her clients or playing the Sims, she’s homeschooling two girls and toying around with the idea of starting a new blog. You can follow her on Twitter.

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