I have come to the unfortunate conclusion that people have lost the ability to listen. It's easy to hear words, but listening to somebody is a skill that is becoming increasingly rare in today's society. Technology offers us "quick fixes" to just about every problem. If you are hungry you just need to log on and order a pizza which will be delivered to your door within 30 minutes. There is no need to speak to another person throughout the transaction, keeping human interactions to the bare minimum.
Although technology has made our lives easier, there is no replacement for a personal interaction. Inflections, facial expressions, and a gesture as simple as a hug cannot be replicated through a keyboard. It feels like the immediacy and anonymity of the internet has relegated the ability to converse to a fading art form. People just don't seem to know how to talk with each other, what to say, and more importantly, when to listen.
A friend of mine is preparing to conduct her first peer visit since becoming an amputee. I am excited for her because I clearly remember talking with her when she lost her leg several years ago. Now she is able to pay it forward by mentoring somebody on their journey. It is wonderful to see her come full circle.
Preparing for her visit, she asked for advice. She has the experience and compassion to be able to help anybody, but I did offer one reminder: when doing a peer visit, or even when listening to a friend who is struggling with their own demons, it is imperative to do more listening than talking.
Whenever I am meeting with a new amputee or a soon-to-be amputee, I try to keep my input and experiences to a minimum. It's a bit of a dance between trying to offer enough information so that the individual feels validated and knows that I am experienced without trying to outdo them. Sometimes volumes can be communicated by my speaking few words. I am not there to compare experiences, war stories or emotional and physical scars. I am there to offer support. I've learned that my saga does not need to be revealed and that offering too much personal information can often derail the visit.
Let's face it, when you are upset and confiding in a friend, the last thing you want to hear is a tale about how they endured more than you. Nobody likes to be one upped, and it is especially detrimental when you are already upset and feeling scared. During my initial interactions, it doesn't matter how many surgeries I've had or what diseases I have survived. The visit is about listening to the new friend and providing information, resources, and assurances that they are not alone. They want to be validated, not outdone. They don't need to be burdened with the mentor's story.
The moment phrases such as, "I know exactly what you mean, my doctors had never dealt with my unique situation before" or "Well, if you think that is bad, wait until you hear what I went through" are uttered, the visit will fail. The mentor needs to spend more time listening than comparing notes. After all, nobody wants to be one-upped in the problem department!
- I am a below knee amputee. More importantly, I am also Mommy to two boys, a very active 10 year old (Robby) and an mischievous toddler (Timmy). I have learned that being a parent with a disability can create some unusual and sometimes humorous situations. This blogger is available for hire! Let's talk and learn how a blog can expand your business.