6/27/11

"I don't care about the credit; I just want to be heard."

We had a customer who got a sandwich that she didn't like. Usually, in this situation, the waitperson would offer them a new one, offer to take it off the bill, or (in the case of delivery) send a new one to their house. Unfortunately, today was one of those particularly busy days, where there simply wasn't enough time to get out to her house to send a new one (she had ordered the sandwich to take with her).

She called up to let us know that the entire thing was just not to her satisfaction. The waitperson offered her a full refund. "I don't care about the credit; I want to talk to the chef. I just want to be heard."

How many times do we interact with people who just want to be heard? Often times, it's just being heard that will make a bad situation bearable. I was at an event a few years back where pretty much everything that could go wrong went so spectacularly wrong that the entire thing was ruined for me, and I vowed to myself never to darken their doors again. I wanted someone to listen to me rant and rave (this is before I had my blog, and you wonderful readers who are so lovely to listen to my rambling), so I called up the management. Since it was an event that my work was throwing, it's not like they could offer me a refund. Since the event was already over, and I was not in the mood to leave the house, they couldn't offer to fix it either.

I didn't care about the money. I just wanted to be heard.

The manager patiently let me vent my spleen, and apologised. She said that on the event day, pretty much all the staff that they count on (because, let's be honest: most places have like one or two people without whom disaster strikes) were out sick, and that things started going wrong one after another.

But all said and done, I felt like I got good customer service, because the person actively listened to my complaint, and let me know that it wasn't my fault, and that it would never happen again. At the end of the exchange, I felt better, and the manager knew that I wouldn't be spreading horrible things about her location.

I can't even count the number of times that it's happened with my family or my friends too. There are times when I'll have lunch with someone /solely/ because we're good listeners to each other, and it helps us to process our feelings, and get them out of our system. There are even times when Bossman and I chat to each other about various things going on in life.

It's not about the money; it's about being heard, and feeling that your thoughts are reaching someone who cares about what you have to say.

When I ask you to listen to me and you start giving me advice, you have not done what I asked.

When I ask you to listen to me and you begin to tell me why I shouldn't feel that way, you are trampling on my feelings.

When I ask you to listen to me and you feel you have to do something to solve my problem, you have failed me, strange as that may seem.

Listen! All I ask is that you listen. Don't talk or do - just hear me.

Advice is cheap; 20 cents will get you both Dear Abby and Billy Graham in the same newspaper, and I can do for myself; I am not helpless. Maybe discouraged and faltering, but not helpless.

When you do something for me that I can and need to do for myself, you contribute to my fear and inadequacy. But when you accept as a simple fact that I feel what I feel, no matter how irrational, then I can stop trying to convince you and get about this business of understanding what's behind this irrational feeling.

And when that's clear, the answers are obvious and I don't need advice. Irrational feelings make sense when we understand what's behind them.

Perhaps that's why prayer works, sometimes, for some people - because G*d is mute, and he doesn't give advice or try to fix things. G*d just listens and lets you work it out for yourself.

So please listen, and just hear me.
And if you want to talk, wait a minute
for your turn - and I will listen to you.
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