Musings On Being A Good Listener

It’s not unusual for someone— who might be a close friend or a brand new acquaintance– to lean in close to me and then tell me something private about himself or herself.  I’m THAT sort of person.

Everyone tells me everything.  Always have.  Always will, I suppose.

In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that if someone feels threatened by me, then I know that person has mental health problems.  Because no well-balanced person ever thinks of me as a threat.

They think of me as a confidante, a mother confessor, a problem solver, but never as someone to be wary of.


When I was in college I asked a prof in the Communications department why she thought people treated me like this.  I was taking her course in listening at the time and had excelled at all the classroom auditory tests.

Her observations were that I was an active listener [H/T to my parents on that one] and that I appear to pay attention to what is going on around me.  So, because I tune into people, they are comfortable around me and want me to know things about them.

At the time I thought that was as good of an explanation as any– and I still do.


I don’t really mind my role as listener, but do find AT TIMES people say some pretty wacko things to me.  I’m not a Judgey McJudgerton, so I let most things roll off me.  I figure that I’m not here to change people, I’m here to help whoever find his or her own way by allowing him or her to talk openly about– well, whatever.

To wit, it’s rare for me to tell someone he or she is doing something stupid, childish, immoral, unethical.  In fact, if by chance I ever tell you that you need to behave differently, then you can be assured that you’ve crossed some sort of line.

And that it’s time for you to re-think how & why you do what you do.


Anyone else find him or herself in the same sort of role as I do– that is, people telling you things for no apparent reason?  And if so, how do you handle it?  With grace or with annoyance?  With zipped lips or with your finger on speed dial to immediately pass the info along?

Just curious.  No reason, really.  

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Ally Bean

Observant. Humorous. Adaptable. Charmingly cynical. Midwestern by chance. Kindhearted by choice. Fond of words.

11 thoughts on “Musings On Being A Good Listener”

  1. In my managing aggressive people workshop, I was voted most likely to be surrendered to. I am, or I was, a natural listener. I’m not sure that I am anymore, I’m more caught up in my own stresses these days. I never used to particularly mind being the listener, except for now and then when I needed someone to listen. Do you find that people who view you as the listener don’t tend to be comfortable listening to you?


    1. Zazzy, I love: “I was voted most likely to be surrendered to.” I’ve never, ever thought of someone having that ability. I feel honored to know you!

      As for your question, mostly yes. I’m just a convenient person to tell things to; who I am is of no interest to most of these people so listening to me is not worth their time. [Although there are some notable exceptions. See Beth below.]


  2. You definitely are a great listener. I know from experience! I’ve probably told you things I’ve never told ANYONE else before. You make it so safe and I always feel better “blabbing” to you.
    I’ve always thought I was good listener, too. People don’t feel threatened by me at all. And I love listening to other people. I’ve always said that everyone has a story. We’ve all been through so many things in our lives, which makes each and every one of us unique. That’s what makes the world go ’round!


    1. Beth, you are a good listener. Between the two of us we probably know enough details about enough people to keep a soap opera in scripts for years!


  3. Random people totally tell me their deep dark secrets. I usually respond with empathy or sympathy and a touch of confusion as to why I now know this. And the only person I ever would tell is my husband.


    1. Alex, that’s exactly what happens to me. I always wonder: “why are you telling me this?” But I nod my head and listen along to the story. And like you, the stories stay with me– or occasionally I tell my husband if I think that he’d be interested.


  4. I am like you, a confidante magnet. I manage to draw most people’s stories out of them because they can sense I’m interested and caring. (and I really am!) I am fortunate to have many friends who are just like me and can listen and draw me out. That’s what happens when many of one’s friends are teachers. We’re people people. 🙂


    1. Margaret, I’m interested in what people tell me… to a point. It’s the really wacko, prejudiced, selfish stuff that I try to get away from. But because most people have no intention of listening to me I think that they feel really comfortable telling me that stuff. From their point of view: who am I going to tell? I’m a stranger or outsider.

      And you are so right about teachers. My mom + her teacher friends were always interested in all people– young & old.


    1. philosophermouse, yes I do look people in the eye. My parents would of tanned my hide if I didn’t. I learned well. There was no being evasive or squirrelly in my family!


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