In this week’s episode Tamara shares 9 Tips which can help you empathetically and lovingly save the world one person at time.
The Secret of How to Save the World One Person at a Time
Hello and welcome to another episode of Tamara’s Takeaways on the Stories of Hope in Hard Times podcast. I’m your host Tamara K. Anderson. Earlier this week, I was going to record this episode and do a completely different topic. And then I had a day where I spent several hours talking to friends and family members, checking up on them making sure they were doing okay. And I decided I needed to talk about something totally different today. So I’ve titled this episode, “The Secret of How to Save the World, One Person at a Time.”
What To Do In Seasons of Change
We live in unprecedented times. We live in a time where life has shifted for every single person on this earth. I don’t care where you live. You have been impacted by the changes from the Coronavirus. And for all of us, change is challenging. It is one thing that is consistent, but change is challenging. And we all need help, as we process change and challenges in our life. Now one of the primary and best ways that we can tackle new and different challenges in our life is to talk to God about them.
Jo Ann’s Lesson: Giving Challenges to God
In fact, in last week’s episode, where I interviewed Jo Ann Glim, she shared a beautiful story about how when she was a young mother. She had four major challenges she was dealing with at the time. And because she wasn’t sure if God could handle these challenges as well as she could, she kept the big challenge for herself and delegated the three minor challenges to God.
The interesting point is that within a week God had all three of those problems solved. And then Jo Ann thought, Maybe God can handle these problems better than I can. This is a really cute and sweet story, to help us realize that one of the primary people we can turn to in times of challenges is turning to God. He is the best person because He sees the beginning of our life to the end of our life, and He knows exactly what we need to learn and who we can become. And so we can trust Him–that He can help and guide us through everyday challenges.
The Power of Listening in Prayer
Now, the way that we involve God in our challenges, is talking to him through prayer. I found a great time quote by Mother Teresa where she says, “God speaks in the silence of the heart, and we listen. And then we speak to God from the fullness of our heart, and God listens. And this listening, and this speaking is what prayer is meant to be.”
So there are two principles we learn there, and they both involve the word I want to talk about today. It is the word listening.
God is Listening
First of all, God is a great listener. You can vent to Him in prayer. any time of the day or night you can tell him about your joys, sorrows, excitements or gratitudes. But He is an especially great listener when it comes to listening to the challenges that we are facing.
We Need to Listen
Now, the other half of the equation when talking to God is us learning to listen back after we’ve talked to Him. And that is so much easier said than done because often God speaks to us as Mother Teresa says, He “speaks to us in the silence of our heart,” and we live in a very noisy world. And so we need to learn to have times of quiet, where we can turn off the cell phone, find a quiet room, closet, or space. Or maybe it’s just learning to meditate and listen with our heart, and with our mind. Often God’s ideas come a little bit at a time.
A Personal Story When I Didn’t Know What to Do
I was dealing with a situation just yesterday where I needed to talk to one of my children about something that he had been looking forward to, that wasn’t going to happen. I was nervous about how he was going to react. And so I prayed to God to know how I should approach talking to him. All of the sudden, I had the idea to take him out to lunch, and we could chat about the situation there.
And it ended up going very well. He took the change very well. And I was really, really thankful that God gave me the idea of how to approach that situation with this child–so that we had one-on-one time together, where neither one of us were distracted with anything else happening here at home.
So listen for those thoughts, ideas, or lightbulb moments. They are just fantastic moments of inspiration from God.
God Often “Listens” Through Others
Now, the second way that I believe God answers our prayers, is by sending us other people to talk to: friends, family, empathetic listeners, etc. I found another fantastic quote by Dr. Judith Orloff, who wrote, “The Empath’s Survival Guide.” And Dr. Orloff described empathy as, “The medicine that will save the world.” And empathy is something that when you talk to someone you feel like they hear and understand you.
Of course, God is the perfect empath because He does hear and understand us. We we know that Jesus Christ suffered for our sins and for all of those bad things that have ever happened to us. So talking to God is a perfect way to have an empathetic listener. But sometimes God sends us empathetic listeners in the form of other people. And that is such a gift. We can be each other’s gift from God as we actively listen to one another.
I did a little bit of research and found some just great points of traits that make a good listener.
Traits Which Make a Great Listener
1. Be Willing to Listen
The first trait is being willing to listen to someone. Perhaps you call them up and say, “How are you doing?” “What have you been thinking about lately?” And then just really letting people talk. So the first thing is to being a good listener is being willing to listen.
2. Pay Attention. Be Present. Be Mindful.
The second tip is to pay attention. Be present and mindful. The interesting statistic I found was that we only remember about 25 to 50% of what we hear. So when we are actively listening to a friend or a family member who is struggling, it’s important that we pay attention.
3. Show Interest–Listen with Love
Another tip I found and I find to be very true is it’s important to show interest. And that can look like nodding or smiling at appropriate times or commenting, “Wow, that must have been hard.” But just showing them that you aren’t just checked out and thinking about something else–that you are really interested.
You can say, “Tell me more,” or “Go on.” Phrases like that indicate that you really are interested. And interest is shown in love. I found a really fun quote by Paul Tillich. And he said,
“The first duty of love is to listen.”
And so I would almost call this tip. Listen with love. Because it is so important that we show that interest and that we listen with love.
4. Repeat or Restate
The fourth thing I found that was commented on by several psychologists as far as listening and the importance of listening is it’s important to repeat or restate what the person is saying. Doing this is important so that they know you are understanding what they are telling you.
So you could start it off by saying something like, “Do you mean that….” and restating what they say. Or “It must have been hard to….” fill in the blank. And so by doing that, you’re showing them that you are truly listening. Dr. Stephen R. Covey said,
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand. They listen with the intent to reply.”
And sometimes a reply is required. But sometimes while you’re understanding and trying to hear what the other person is saying, it’s important that you restate first before you reply, or come up with a different thought or answer.
5. Don’t Interrupt
Tip number five, don’t interrupt. The best listeners are those who simply listen without trying to solve the problem immediately, but just listen to you, and you feel heard. And often that is a lot of you biting your tongue and just really listening.
I’ve found that I’ve really had to employ this method more so since I began podcasting. I’m getting better at it because it’s not good for people to talk over each other when you’re podcasting. And so, this “Don’t interrupt” is pretty important. You need to let people finish their statements. And like I said, I’m not perfect at it. I had a friend listen to me last night even because I’d been vented on all day and I needed to talk to somebody back. And she just sat and listened to me. It was just fantastic.
So sometimes just having somebody there to listen without interruption just helps you get it off your chest. Peter Levine said,
“Trauma is not what happens to us, but what we hold inside in the absence of an empathetic witness.”
And so as you become a better listener, you can become this empathetic witness who helps people move through challenging situations and helps them process, so that it doesn’t become a traumatic situation that keeps them stuck. So often these traumatic situations in our lives are what happens when we can’t process it. And some traumatic situations take years of processing (Speaking from experience here). And so it is good to have people who listen who are that “empathetic witness,” as Peter Levine says.
6. Be Non-Judgmental and Open
The sixth tip I found was be non judgmental and open to what people are saying. Sometimes people see things from different points of view, and it requires all of our skill to let them get that out. And then hopefully, they will be open to listening to different ways of thinking about it. Doing this is really tricky because you need to let them finish before you share your thoughts.
7. Ask Questions Along the Way
Another tip I found we’ll call this tip number seven is ask questions along the way. Sometimes when people are describing a situation, you find you have to dig a little deeper to completely understand the situation. So don’t be afraid to ask questions about what the situation was–but wait until they are done until you ask the question.
So they may be telling you a story about something that happened to them or how they’ve been stuck in their home due to the Coronavirus. Then you could ask the question, “Tell me some of your favorite things that you’ve been doing while you’ve been stuck at home?” Or, “Tell me more about this sorrow that you’re feeling because you’ve been stuck at home?” Or you can angle the conversation from there just to better understand what they’ve been dealing with or things they’ve been thinking about more clearly.
Another point under asking question is that it is important to ask open ended questions. This is another thing that you learn when you talk to people in podcasting. You don’t want to ask a yes or no question. You want to ask questions like, “Would you mind diving into and explaining this part of what you said a little bit better?” Or, “Tell me more about that. I’d love to hear what you were thinking in that situation.” So ask for their thoughts or feelings. Those answers help you dive deeper into what they were really going through in that hard situation.
8. Be Okay with Silence
Tip number eight is, don’t be afraid of long bouts of silence as you’re talking to people. Communicating with people often takes a lot of brainpower both as a listener and as someone trying to communicate. And some people are better at communicating verbally than others. Some people write better. And so you might get an email from them or a text or something like that.
Allow Time to Think or Process
We humans are funny about silence, and we often feel that it needs to be filled. If you’re not sure what to say, it’s also appropriate to say, “Wow, that is a lot for me to take in. Do you mind if I think about this for a minute before I give you a reply? Because it’s so much to think about. And so I think if you’re uncomfortable with silence, and you need time to think, it is okay to say, “Let me process that. I’m thinking.”
I know I used to just lapse into bouts of silence, especially when I was first married and talking to my husband. And I even sometimes still do now I will just stop and think–and he will say something like, “Hello, are you listening?” I answer, “Yes, I’m processing what you’re were talking about.” And so I’ve had to learn to say that out loud. Not just lapse into that process of thinking, but verbalize that, “Oh, my goodness, this is a challenging situation. Let me think about it for a moment.”
And saying that just gave me that time to think and let my husband know that I have heard him and that I was now processing. I don’t always have the right thing to say right off. And so it’s good to have time to think about things.
Get Back to Them
If you need more time to Process something. It’s okay to also say, ” Wow, this is a really tricky situation. Do you mind if I think about this for a little bit and I get back to you either today or tomorrow?” And then you do need to follow up with that and say, “I’ve been thinking more about your situation…” Because I find that sometimes ideas come to me, either late at night or early in the morning. Early morning works best for me because I’m up before everybody else, and it is a quiet is a time of inspiration or revelation. It’s the time that I take to connect with God first, so He can give me the strength to carry on through the day.
Another idea if you aren’t sure what to say after someone has finished telling their story, is to include God in that conversation. (On to tip #9).
9. Include God in the Conversation
I can’t tell you the number of times I’m either been talking to a child or a friend or family member, and I have no idea what to say to them. None. I don’t know what advice to share. I don’t know what to say. And I’ve literally had to pray in my heart and say, Dear God, please help me to know what to say, how to comfort them, how to help them in this situation because I don’t know what to do.
It’s good to invite God to be a part of that conversation as a third party listener, because He can bless you with ideas, not only to know what to say or what to do or how to help them. Or maybe you encourage them to talk to God about it, because He has better answers than you. Or maybe you’ll get a thought you should do a certain thing. I’ve had that happen to me after talking to a friend where I didn’t know what to say, and I prayed. And all of a sudden, these words just started spilling out of my mouth. And I knew it wasn’t me speaking. It was God giving me an idea of what to say.
So those are my nine tips to being a better listener, which I really feel is one of the secrets on how we can save the world one person at a time.
A Special Note to Those Who are Struggling
There are a lot of people out there who are struggling right now. I personally know and love several people who are suicidal. And it is a very heavy burden to know that they are struggling so much.
And to anyone out there listening who is struggling to the point that they are suicidal, I encourage you to get help. There are National Suicide Hotline phone numbers for you to call. In the United States, that phone number is: 1-800-273-8255. There are mental health care providers who would be so happy to talk to you. There are friends and loved ones who would be happy to listen to you. Don’t give up.
There’s a fantastic quote that I just absolutely love by Jeffrey Holland. He said,
“Don’t you give up. Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead. It will be alright in the end. Trust God, and believe and good things to come.”
I’ve interviewed people on here who have had suicide touch their lives. And it is a very, very difficult thing to navigate, both for the person contemplating it, and for the people who love them. And so my my tip to any of you who are struggling is get help. The world is better with you in it. I can promise you that because there is a ripple effect of sorrow and sadness that will bleed into the hearts of those who love you the moment you take your life. So stay with it, don’t give up. Don’t quit!
Final Tip: For When You Have Listened and Feel Heavy
The final thing I wanted to talk about is that after a day of listening to friends and family members who are struggling and talking to them, sometimes when I was younger I used to feel I had to solve all of their problems on my own. And I would feel that pain and sorrow and anguish. I’m a bit of an empath. And I learned it took me years to learn this. After listening to a friend’s particularly sorrowful tale with an abusive husband, I went home that night and I felt like crying. And as I knelt by my bed that night, I prayed. I simply told God, “This burden is too heavy for me to carry.” I gave it to Him.
And He took it. I didn’t have to carry it anymore. My burden was lifted. And so if you have ever talked to a friend and felt completely overwhelmed by the sorrow and sadness in their life, I encourage you to do the same, to give it to God.
And if you are the one with sorrow and sadness in your life, I also encourage you to give back to God because as Joanne taught us and last week’s episode, He can solve those problems. They may appear completely unsolvable. But God can do it. He knows the way out. He knows what can happen. And He sees hope in you and in your life and in your situation. So don’t give up there. God is stronger and greater and can deal with any of these challenges that we may face in life.
The Fun Stuff
All right, we’ve had a super heavy topic today and so I have to end it with something fun and something light hearted. So forgive me for switching topics like this, but we have to end on a fun and happy note.
A Windy, Funny Story
One of my favorite things that I love to do is getting out in nature. I’ve told you guys that many times and just this past week. We went to a local state park called Antelope Island. It’s an island in the middle of the Great Salt Lake. And there’s bison out there and we just went off with we packed our car full of our children and my two nieces and we went off to explore Antelope Island. Of course, we have been there before but my niece’s had not. And so we wanted to give them a taste of what this beautiful part of nature is.
The Incredible Wind
We got to one point on our drive, where there is a lookout point. And I don’t know what it was about this particular day, but there was a wind whipping up at this particular point that was so, so strong–I would dare say gale force winds. It was unbelievable.
And most people would come to that point, get out of their car, feel the wind and say forget this and they’d get back in their car and drive away. So we were literally like the only car in the parking lot because it was so windy and was kind of this overlook. Thank goodness the wind was pushing toward the overlook.
So my kids had the funnest time just leaning into the wind and feeling it push against them. They could lean forward quite far and not fall over because the wind was just whipping so fast.
Autism and the Wind
My son Nathan, who has the low functioning autism, wouldn’t even get out of the car. It was just too much stimulus for him. He sat and waited in the car. And after being outside with my other kids, and my husband and my nieces, I went and sat in the car with him. The funny thing is the wind was so strong, it was literally shaking the car.
Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t bad enough that I feared for our lives or anything like that. But it was quite strong and my kids had so much fun.
In fact, one of my sons had a jacket on. And he found that if he opened his jacket and opened his arms, the wind would catch him and then he could jump up and it literally pushed him back about three feet. But it was so fun, and I’ll have to include some pictures or video of us up in this strong wind.
To see a short YouTube of us playing in the wind, watch it here https://youtu.be/TRhUpKLkWW0.
Lesson from the Wind
But my point is, we can find find joy even in the windy times of our lives. Maybe we just need to find it and say it’s a windy day. It’s a windy time of life and I’m going to lean into the wind and I’m going to have some fun. Because often those windy times are challenging. But find moments and make moments of fun. Find things to do that are fun in this windy season of life.
Challenge and Invitation
My challenge and invitation for you today is to find a listening ear and God and to be a listening ear for someone else. If you’re not sure who needs a listening ear, talk to God. He can prompt you to know who you need to call or text or go on a walk with. So be someone’s listening ear and be the person that helps save the world one person at a time through listening.
Have a blessed day!