Tips for Talking Honestly; Listening Intently

QUESTION:

What tips can you share that help you tell your story, as a caregiver, or help you listen to another person’s story?

Why This Matters:

A father you’ll meet in my book describes how he is caring for an adult son who is mentally ill. “I am having a hell of a time coping with him,” the father says. “I tried to talk about my struggle with my men’s group at church. I must not do it well because, within a few minutes, they are telling me about things from their lives and it never gets back to me. So, I just get quiet and listen or drift away.”

As I explain in the chapter, Talking Honestly; Listening Intently, caregivers need a community—whether two or ten people—in which we can tell our story; a community were we are heard, validated and respected for the journey we are taking. Some readers already have shared tips:

Ask a group of friends to gather each week and take turns “checking in” with the group. I’ve been in groups where people pass an object around and only the person holding the object can speak. But, you don’t have to be that formal. Sometimes, all it takes is a good honest conversation with your friends, asking that each person get a fair chance to speak, each week, and that others refrain from interrupting. A healthy group finds ways to protect each person’s time to speak.

A Retired Pastor Who Leads Small Groups

Try writing down your feelings ahead of time. It works for me. I like to write short poems in my journal and, when I get together with my friends each week, I like to read one of my recent poems. It’s a good discussion starter and it lets me plan ahead for what I really need to get off my chest. Some of my friends have started writing poetry, too!

An Indiana Woman Who Has Coffee with Friends Each Week

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