Person A was telling person B about her problems at work. Person B listened attentively and patiently while person A talked. At the same, person B was working out something mentally, which might help person A solved her problems. As soon as person A stopped talking, person B started to tell person A what she could do to solve her problems at work.‘ A typical scenario that can happen between a couple, family members and friends.

The questions are, “Was person A seeking solutions from person B for her problems at work? Or person A simply needed a listening ear?” There are no straightforward answers for this.

This is one common mistake in relationship which I tend to make very often previously. Usually when someone told me his/her problem, I just assumed that I was supposed to fix it. You can guess the frustration when the person said, “I didn’t ask for your opinion or advice.” In my mind I was wondering, “Why are you telling me about your problem in the first place when you don’t need my opinion or advice?” I didn’t understand that the person just needed someone to talk to and at time to sympathize with his/her situation.

I have come to realise that we are not expected to fix problems always from books and seminars which I attended. From then onwards, I tried to be a mind-reader; trying my best to grasp what the other person needed. Sometimes I was right, sometimes I was wrong. Wouldn’t it be much easier if the person just tell us what he/she wants?

In the book ‘Finding the Words: Candid Conversations with Loved Ones,’ the author Susan P. Halpern cited a story:

Lester felt inadequate, he realized, when Judy aired her personal concerns. He did not know what to do or say. His impulse was to think up a solution right away. All Judy wanted from Lester was that he listen when she talked about herself. He did not need to fix anything.

Only by telling our partner what we want can the need be met. Judy realised that she only wanted to be listened to. That was it. She wanted to hear herself talk through her issues, maybe get a little sympathy, and she would be fine.

When Lester came up with his great ideas, Judy felt he was saying she was dumb for not thinking of them herself. She felt belittled and dependent. He was the only one who could fix things, she felt.

When she told him that she just needed time to talk and a friendly ear, she felt better and she went on to handle her problems in her own way. Judy had to tell Lester that she just wanted him to listen, and he learned to do just that.

In communication, we not only need to listen attentively, patiently and openly but we also need to convey our thought and need accordingly. Trying to read mind or assuming the need of another is a mistake that cause tension and conflict between a couple, family members and friends. We need to clearly communicate to each other what we want.

Do you always expect solution from your partner when you talk about your problem or most time you just need a listening ear? When you are talking to your partner, how do you communicate what you want to him/her?

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38 Comments so far »

  1. by jacqueline, on March 11 2010 @ 12:15 pm


    Dearest BK, this is such a wonderful reminder to me. I too sometimes wonders off when my partner talks. Thanks to him i am doing less of this wondering off. :) When i talk to my partner about my problems, sometimes i hope he would give me a solution but other times i mostly wanted him to listern. Hope you are doing well and all is good! Have a lovely merry happy day and love to you!
    .-= jacqueline´s last blog ..all wrapped up =-.

  2. by christina, on March 11 2010 @ 3:26 pm


    sigh. this is all SO true and what i as a newlywed way too often forget. thankyou!

  3. by Belinda Munoz, on March 11 2010 @ 3:54 pm


    I think our desire to want to be helpful is what makes us jump to suggest a fix. It’s well-intentioned but execution may not always be necessary. This is why I only have very few people I confide in. I trust my journey (if I’m being authentic) and know that things will work out, even if I worry that they won’t. I don’t get angry when people offer solutions. I used to but when I realized how easily I do it myself, then I became more understanding.

  4. by Symphony of Love, on March 11 2010 @ 10:10 pm


    @ Jacqueline, we all learn along the way to be better. Would it be good if you can communicate what you want to him so as to save you any frustration when he don’t get you? Have a lovely merry happy day and love to you too. :)

    @ Christina, it’s alright, we always learn and remind each other. :)

    @ Belinda, thank you for making that excellent point which I missed out. It is often the desire to want to be helpful that makes us jump in to suggest a fix. I guess I am pretty much like you, I rarely confide in another as I believe that no problems are too big for me to handle if they are being thrown in my way. Most time I will always try to find a solution for myself.

  5. by One of The Guys, on March 11 2010 @ 11:17 pm


    This is such a guy thing to do. I know I do it. Whenever someone tells me something I want to help them fix it somehow. It comes from a good place, but it’s not always helpful.

    I think women in general are much better at just listening.

    It’s something good to work on though. I’m learning.
    .-= One of The Guys´s last blog ..Cheating Part 3: Inner Child =-.

  6. by Jen, on March 12 2010 @ 12:10 am


    The last thing I usually want is for someone to fix my problem. I don’t tell them what is happening because I want them to fix it I just want to vent and to think out loud. I get frustrated when people make suggestions for how I should solve the problem because how they might solve it is usually very different from how I would solve it. I think men tend to want to fix things more while women are able and willing to just listen.
    .-= Jen´s last blog ..Boyfriend or Blog =-.

  7. by Symphony of Love, on March 12 2010 @ 4:24 am


    @ One of the Guys, I agree with you that it is a guy thing to do; most time we (guys) just want to fix things. We need to learn that that is not usually the case. This is something that we (guys) should be working on and learning.

    @ Jen, you are right on spot; what works for one may not works for another and this is something which we must know. I tend to agree with you that men want to fix things more compare to women. Listening – this is a skill which we (men) need to pick up.

  8. by Tracy, on March 12 2010 @ 8:03 am


    Listening is always the best thing–just listening. Sometimes a person just wants to be heard. That saying things out loud gets them out there so a solution can be found. But we can’t “fix” the problems of another. We can listen, share experiences, and if asked offer suggestions. But ultimately we have not control over the problems someone else is going through.–be it a loved one, friend, family. To be there, to support and encourage the best we can do. And when I have a problem I don’t expect a miracle solution from my hubby, family or friends. That they take the time to be with me and listen is enough. Luckily my hubby is a great listen and supporter without necessarily feeling he has to fix my issues! Great topic, BK! Happy Weekend :o)

  9. by meleah rebeccah, on March 12 2010 @ 12:56 pm


    Much like YOU, I make the same mistake assuming that I am supposed to fix it, or at least offer up some advice. I forget that sometimes people just want to vent.
    .-= meleah rebeccah´s last blog ..Doing Things Differently™ – My Week In Review [Part Five] =-.

  10. by Pam, on March 12 2010 @ 1:39 pm


    I learned to ask my husband to just listen. He didn’t have to “fix” the problem, just be there to care.

  11. by VanillaSeven, on March 12 2010 @ 11:47 pm


    Most of the time I tried to fixed the problem after listening to my friends problem. No good. Thank’s for reminding me of this BK.
    .-= VanillaSeven´s last blog ..The dark and the delicate. =-.

  12. by jacqueline, on March 13 2010 @ 3:39 am


    Dearest Bk, couldn’t have agree more that it does save me some frustration when he don’t get me. :) Have a lovely merry happy weekend and love to yoU!
    .-= jacqueline´s last blog ..a snail’s pace =-.

  13. by Symphony of Love, on March 13 2010 @ 5:24 am


    @ Tracy, I agree, listening and to give moral support is very important. Most of the time, they would need to solve their own problem. There is much we can learn from your husband. Happy Weekend to you too Tracy. :)

    @ Meleah, most of us will make such mistake once in a while. :)

    @ Pam, I believe that most of the time people just need a listening ear and the care and concern. Thank yo for sharing your experience. :)

    @ VanillaSeven, it is a reminder to myself as well to really listen to people. :)

    @ Jacqueline, thank you. :)

  14. by Hilary, on March 13 2010 @ 6:12 am


    Hi BK .. you’re right .. I now try and ask a question back, or put a positive on the situation – get the person to look at their problem from another angle.

    Sometimes we just don’t need others angst .. I used to be able to off-load to my uncle and that was really helpful – he knew the characters and the situation .. but once he’d gone – I’ve had to help myself.

    One lesson I learnt was that I was trying to offload just the drama of the hassle I was having .. and I was promptly told – I can’t take that on board, I don’t need that negativity .. that brought me up straight!

    It’s not making mountains out of molehills for our own things, or as you so rightly say work out what’s being said by the other person and what they actually want from you, before putting your foot (or mouth) right in it.

    Thanks – these were general thoughts – Hilary
    .-= Hilary´s last blog ..Women – how much education have women had in the past 2,000 years? =-.

  15. by Maggie May, on March 13 2010 @ 7:52 am


    I think that it is the listening that is important. Maybe the person wants to unload.
    I think that it is sometimes a tricky situation and the person who is unloading might drop a hint as to whether an solution is wanted but may not like what you come up with.
    I have had this happen to me. I think everyone has.

    Nuts in May

  16. by Symphony of Love, on March 13 2010 @ 9:20 am


    @ Hilary, thank you for your thoughtful comment always. You are right, we just have to let go of negativity in our life.

    @ Maggie , indeed, it would be good if the person can drop a hint.

  17. by Sarah Ruth, on March 13 2010 @ 8:35 pm


    Thanks for stopping by my blog! I did have a great time with my sister!

    This is a great post. My husband and I are working on our communication.
    .-= Sarah Ruth´s last blog ..My Husband Rocks Friday =-.

  18. by Symphony of Love, on March 14 2010 @ 1:58 am


    @ Sarah, you are most welcome. We all need to work on our communication; learning to listen more and speak less.

  19. by margie, on March 14 2010 @ 2:28 am


    Thank you for visiting my blog and thank you for the kind words.
    Great post here and great blog.

    I have been married for some time now and listening (really listening) is the key to good communication.

    Margie :)
    .-= margie´s last blog ..SWEET MAGNOLIA (To Mama) =-.

  20. by Symphony of Love, on March 14 2010 @ 6:32 am


    @ Margie, yes, the key is really listening when some just want to do the exact opposite.

  21. by D, on March 14 2010 @ 5:38 pm


    Oh if we could all be like actors and only speak on Que….can you imagine how well understood we would all be in life.
    It is not only essential in a relationship to listen and/or hear but it is vital. How can we ever understand what our partner is trying to relay if we do not actually hear and listen to the words being transferred to us.

    Many people will say that their partner is watching their lips to see when they stop moving and not really listening to what they are saying….this is a truism in many cases.
    An unfortunate truism at that because when that becomes a habit we really do have a failure to communicate~

    Less said is more heard….a very good food for thought~

  22. by Symphony of Love, on March 14 2010 @ 11:28 pm


    @ D, indeed, if we do not listen and hear what our partner has to say, how can we ever hope to understand what he/she is trying to convey. Well said, “Less said is more heard.

  23. by Megan "JoyGirl!" Bord, on March 15 2010 @ 11:52 am


    This is a great topic. After listening to someone share their problems, I usually ask, “Would you like to know what I think?” That way, I’m asking permission to share a potential opinion/solution, but am prepared that if they say, “Not really, I just wanted you to listen,” I can rest knowing I served their needs simply by listening.

    I’ve found that this approach is easier for the women I know than for my male friends. Men tend to want to fix fix fix. Women, on the other hand, can recognize when listening is enough.
    .-= Megan “JoyGirl!” Bord´s last blog ..Life, Death, and Reflection =-.

  24. by Fatima Da, on March 15 2010 @ 1:01 pm


    I suppose attempting to fix when listening is just the human love in us, and I am sure I have done it on a few occasions, great post BK
    .-= Fatima Da´s last blog ..Negative Thoughts Evacuation =-.

  25. by Tina t, on March 15 2010 @ 3:07 pm


    I love this post. I think that there are so many misunderstandings because of this. Usually I talk about a problem just to express myself, and my husband learned this a long time ago (after giving my all kinds of solutions that we were not met well by me since that is not what I was looking for). I think that it is common that men want to take action and “solve” problems and that often women talk just to feel better and are just looking for a sympathetic ear, not a solution.
    .-= Tina t´s last blog ..Love and Money =-.

  26. by Symphony of Love, on March 16 2010 @ 2:58 am


    @ Megan, a good point in asking the question. What I do myself is to ask, “What do you think you can do?” In asking that, I am prompting the speaker to look for the answer himself/herself. And sometimes, he/she may respond with another question asking me, “What do you think I should do?” That is the time when I would get the permission to present my opinion. Otherwise, I would continue to listen as best as I could. You are right that men tend to want to fix problem while women on the other hand just want a listening ear.

    @ Fatima, yes, I do agree with you that it is a human need and wish to be useful and helpful to one’s loved one, family and friend.

    @ Tina, yes, it is common for men to want to take action and “solve” the problem while women just want someone to listen to them to feel better. This can cause misunderstandings especially if men just want to “solve” the problem while women just need someone to “listen.” This misunderstanding can be easily prevented if men and women understand the different needs involve.

  27. by Tomas, on March 19 2010 @ 3:01 am


    Thank you for the article. Your words were full of wisdom and portrayed the dream. It would be the real miracle to meet the Listening Ear one day. Wow! That would be the fixing of all problems out of itself.
    I see, my conclusion may sound strangely, yet that’s so indeed. Even while thinking about the Listening Ear, I jumped into the other world where the True Love reigns, and all people are free from slavery to things they have. Though the listening Ear can’t buy me a camera, yet She can much more to do – Listening Ear enables the beholder to live the light in the concrete/to revive the dreams of the best artworks.
    .-= Tomas´s last blog ..story of the back street =-.

  28. by Symphony of Love, on March 19 2010 @ 5:13 am


    @ Tomas, that is just brilliant; a listening ear and that will truly be the fixing of all problems.

  29. by Jude, on March 19 2010 @ 9:02 am


    Very good post BK and an excellent reminder for me to keep any opinions I might have to myself when Bill rants about his job. He tells me often when I start to speak that I’m the only one he has to talk to so I’m assuming he just wants me to listen and commiserate because I know he can fix his on problems. Have a beautiful weekend.
    .-= Jude´s last blog ..Catching Up With My Life =-.

  30. by Symphony of Love, on March 19 2010 @ 11:16 am


    @ Jude, thank you for sharing your view. Yes, I am also reminding myself to keep any opinions to myself when someone is talking to me, unless he/she is asking for my opinion. Have a beautiful weekend too.

  31. by Jenny Ann Fraser, on March 21 2010 @ 7:11 pm


    I too am just coming around to this way of thinking. It’s difficult to change old patterns, but I’m already finding that there often is more peace to be found for both parties when you’re willing to just listen.
    Thank you.
    .-= Jenny Ann Fraser´s last blog ..Finding Inspiration Wherever I Can =-.

  32. by Symphony of Love, on March 21 2010 @ 9:01 pm


    @ Jenny, thank you for sharing your point of view. It will be a challenge to change to this way of thinking since most of us grew up in an environment where people are talking more than they listen. However, with practice, conscious awareness and reminding ourselves, we will get better.

  33. by Linda @ Marriage Intimacy, on March 29 2010 @ 10:51 pm


    Thank you for sharing this inspiring post! I would just like to add to your wonderful post that being an active listener means empathizing. Being present for another person doesn’t just mean listening to them without speaking. It requires that a person really put himself and his desires aside for the moment so he can fully hear what others have to say. This way a person can show other people how he appreciates and supports them.
    .-= Linda @ Marriage Intimacy´s last blog ..Marriage Intimacy Means Time Together =-.

  34. by Symphony of Love, on March 30 2010 @ 12:43 am


    @ Linda, I agree with you that one do not just listen but to listen openly without any judgment and to fully hear and understand where the person is coming from. This requires total, full and undivided attention to the other person.

  35. by Ben, on June 2 2010 @ 12:10 pm


    Yep, what you said is very true. It’s odd how difficult communication can be in relationships. I like your scenario at the beginning. I’ve been there before :)
    .-= Ben´s last blog ..Romantic Thoughts that Must Be Done =-.

  36. by Symphony of Love, on June 2 2010 @ 10:35 pm


    @ Ben, I believe most of us had been through similar situation like that and we will continue to go through the same situation if we do not change.

  37. by Don, on November 10 2010 @ 12:55 pm


    Everyone needs someone that can listen, but every so often they also need some advise to fix a problem.

    The hard part is giving any type of advise, because what may work for one, may only do harm to another. I find the best advise to give would be to just say that this may not work for you, but this is what I would do or this is what I did.

    But the best thing to do is just listen and give no advise, unless your asked for your opinion on the matter.

    Be very careful with any advise!

  38. by Symphony of Love, on November 29 2010 @ 11:17 pm


    @ Don, the first rule is always to listen first and this is something which not all are doing yet; usually people are more anxious to give advise then to listen.

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