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Adulting and Letting a Friend Just Vent...

“I know you can’t solve my problem Gina, but just listening to me really helps.” My friend was facing a difficult situation, and she said those words to me. And she was right. As much as I wanted to, I had no solution for her. Unfortunately, we live in a world with problems that aren’t always easily solved. Oh, how I wish it were different. I feel so helpless at times. ​ However, I think I had forgotten the power of commiseration. By telling me that my listening was valuable, my friend pointed out that I still had something to offer. Shutting my mouth and hearing her and only saying, “Yeah. That’s awful. I hate this too,” is more helpful than I realized. I have my go-to phrases where I tell friends not to worry. I say (big smile): “We survive and come through hard times stronger!” It may be nice and true, but it also sounds like a cliché, unhelpful greeting card. I think about past conversations when I’ve vented to close friends, and how much I benefited when they would enthusiastically agree, “WOW! THAT’S TERRIBLE.” One friend especially! To this day, I know her eyes will get big and she will really emphasize her words of concern for me. I am so comforted by it, because I feel she is jumping with me right into the mess. And it is soothing for three reasons: ​

  1. I feel verified. When a friend listens, and then echoes my frustrations in agreement, I feel grounded. I feel reassured that I’m not going crazy, but I’m actually quite normal to be upset.

  2. Just conversing with someone about the details of my problem helps me. Conversation does my soul good, and I know it does for many other people. It can help us process and find baby steps toward solutions, even when the listener has little to offer.

  3. Lastly, it helps me accept the problem in my life. I don’t like hardships, so I often want to ignore them. But pouring my heart out to someone and having them confirm and care helps me face the reality that yes, I’m struggling, and yes, it’s hard, but as so many self-help peeps say, I need to acknowledge it in order to work through it or move forward.

Isn’t it nice when we can help solve other people’s problems? But if we can’t, or we aren’t asked to, empathy is still such a powerful gift. During this hard time, when pain is all around us, and we can’t magically make everything better, I needed to be reminded of this fact. And I thought I’d share, in case you needed it too. ​ Stay safe and take care of yourself and others…


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