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Listening in Storytelling and Mental Health: A Guide to How Not to Do It

Yeah, the art of listening! It's a mystery, isn't it? One minute you're locked in a heart-to-heart with someone, and the next, you find yourself nodding along, saying, "I get it," while secretly scrolling through your mental grocery list. Not to worry, sparkstar; you're not alone. Let's explore this enigmatic world of listening, storytelling, and mental health, and the top four ways to completely ruin a conversation.

Unhealthy Response #1: "I Get It"

You know the type. Someone shares a profound, personal story, and before they even finish, you hit them with the old, "I get it." But do you? Really? The truth is, you probably don't. Saying "I get it" is like slapping a "mission accomplished" sticker on an unfinished puzzle. It's dismissive, and it shuts down the conversation faster than you can say, "Wait, what were we talking about?"

Solution: Try active listening. Lean in, nod, and ask open-ended questions. Show genuine curiosity. And if you're tempted to say, "I get it," bite your tongue and ask, "Can you tell me more about that?" instead.

Unhealthy Response #2: Changing the Subject

Yup, the sudden subject change – a classic move when you're feeling uncomfortable. Someone's pouring their heart out to you, and you suddenly blurt out, "Hey, have you seen the latest superhero movie?" Smooth. It's the conversational equivalent of pulling the emergency brake on a train.

Solution: Instead of diverting, dive in. Acknowledge your discomfort and ask questions to deepen your understanding. If the topic is genuinely too heavy, it's okay to say, "I'm here for you, but I need a moment to process what you're sharing."

Unhealthy Response #3: The Uninvited Advice Giver

We've all met them – the self-proclaimed experts on everything. Share a problem, and they've got a solution, even when you didn't ask for one. Thanks, but no thanks.

Solution: If you're prone to giving unsolicited advice, try this novel approach: Don't. Instead, ask, "What do you need from me right now?" Sometimes, a listening ear is more valuable than a mouth full of wisdom.

Unhealthy Response #4: The One-Upper

So, you think you've had a bad day? Well, buckle up, because the One-Upper has a story that'll blow yours out of the water. It's not a conversation; it's a competition. And nobody wins.

Solution: Resist the urge to turn someone's story into a launching pad for your own. Keep the focus on them, validate their feelings, and save your tale for another time.


Listening is an art, a dance, a tightrope walk over the pit of conversational faux pas. It's not about having the right answers or the most dramatic stories. It's about being present, being curious, and being human.

So, friends, next time you find yourself in a conversation or listening to someone else's heartfelt story, remember: You don't have to "get it." You don't have to change the subject or one-up or dole out advice like candy on Halloween. Just listen. Really listen. Because in this noisy world, a listening ear is a rare and beautiful gift.

And who knows? You might just find that listening doesn't just make you a better storyteller or friend; it makes you a better human.

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