How many monkeys are on your back?
A listener can be tempted to take on the problems of those they listen to. They can end up carrying everyone’s problems without realising what they have done.
In our training workshops in Bangladesh we illustrate this with a fun role play where workers come to talk with a manager. Each one tells their problem then places a soft-toy monkey on the manager’s back. The manager is left at the end of the day with a stack of monkeys weighing them down and playing havoc with their mind.
They take on the worries of their staff because they assume that they have to solve everyone’s problems.
When someone comes to you with a problem listen to them, hear them out and to keep believing that in most cases they can solve the problem they are grappling with. Even when you feel sorry for the person who may be very emotional, even crying, it is best not to jump in and take on their problem. Trust that they have the inner resources to come to a resolution themselves.
By all means feel for them, empathise, be with them as they sort out how they are going to meet this current challenge, but don’t do it for them.
It will be good for them and good for you.