This is precisely why having a Listening Partnership is such a powerful practice and vital tool to have, and I wish it could become standard!
When my son was 2ish, I became Listening Partners with another mom of a “spirited” toddler, and it made such a huge difference in my life! Just to be Listened To without advice given is so healing, and freeing — it consistently freed up my own energy to tune into my own solutions, once the emotional charge had cleared a bit in the compassionate container of our time together.
How it worked:
Every week (or two) we got together (or scheduled a call) to exchange Listening Time, in which we would set a timer for each of us to share and just be heard — about whatever came up, mostly the things that were feeling super hard in our parenting and/or relationships. Sometimes 10 minutes each, if that’s all we had, but longer chunks too, since usually we didn’t get to the deepest stuff until 10-20 minutes in… (although over time, we got better at getting deep quickly!)
We just set a timer and let the other person talk for that time (with leeway to wind down at the end), and held space for whatever arose. No interruptions or judging or advice. Just compassionate witnessing. Then we would switch, without commenting on what the other person had shared, except to thank them, and maybe offer some brief compassionate support and gratitude for their openness.
And, the person sharing could state at any point if they wanted to discuss solutions at the end, or could ask about the other person’s ideas or resources. But the person listening would only ever offer any resources after asking if the person sharing was open to it, at the end — and often the request would be for those ideas/solutions to be shared at another time, separate from the emotional catharsis, so that it wouldn’t interfere with the power of simply Being Heard.
Usually there would be some cathartic tears, and realizations about why things felt so triggering or painful, and what current challenges brought up from our own childhood. And sometimes it just was nice to vent and be heard — and know the other person wouldn’t talk back or commiserate or interrupt or give advice!
And, we also agreed we could call each other at any time, and leave a voicemail or ask for just 5 minutes of Listening Time if we were really triggered about something — which was great to know (& do) during stressful times!
And we still do, although much less often, as we’re both happier and more resourced now… but even so, it’s still a great practice!
Anyway, it made a world of difference in helping me become a better Listener, and also helping me come to my own clarity and feel heard and validated in my emotional experience, simply by being witnessed by a fellow compassionate human. Both sharing and listening brought many ah-ha moments, and I’m sure I wouldn’t be who I am now without all of those vulnerable, healing exchanges!
We based our Listening Partnership on the Hand-in-Hand parenting description, which you can find here:
I also like this description here, which describes the roles and value of both Listener and Explorer — I like the title “Explorer”, as it really does feel like deep exploration of our emotional inner world!
It helps to have deep curiosity and openness, and to value both listening and exploring as Real Skills in themselves, trusting the magic and healing that can happen in that co-created safe space of possibility & presence.