I went to watch Joker three times. I believe it helps people who went through depression or still experience it find a way to express their feelings. There were two senses in the movie when Arthur was talking about his desperation to a social worker, but he did not feel heard. Here are the conversations I recalled, which may not be accurate.
Arthur, “Is it just me, or are they getting crazy out there?”
Staff, “It is certainly tense. People are upset. They are struggling, looking for work. These are tough times.”
Arthur, “You don’t listen, don’t you? I don’t think you ever really hear me. You just ask the same questions every week. How is your job? Are you having any negative thoughts? All I have are negative thoughts. But you don’t listen anyway. I said, for my whole life, I don’t even know I existed. But people start to notice.”
Staff, “They cut our funding. This is the last time for our meeting.”
Arthur, “…Okay” Staff, “They don’t give a shit about people like you, Arthur. And, they don’t give a shit about people like me, neither.”
She projected her own feelings onto him and dismissed his feelings.
Listening is actually a skill we need to learn and practice a lot to acquire, like all the other skills: calculation, language, problem-solving and etc. To learn how to listen, first of all, we need to be able to recognize what behaviors are not working.
If your goal of listening is to make the other person feel heard, understood, and connected with you, here are some examples that are NOT working:
I used to think sharing my experiences in similar situations will make the other person feel connected with me. I was confused when it didn’t work out until I realized I was more thinking about myself than the person who was talking. Usually, when I did that, the focus of the conversation was no longer about the other person but me or both of us. It works better when I share my own experiences and feelings after talking about the other person's.
We learned that saying this to people who are worried, anxious, or sad would comfort them. This is simply not true. People usually feel dismissed by their feelings and drop the topic, which is not useful for us to gather more information and continue the conversation.
WHAT WE CAN DO
When we have our own feelings about what the other person is talking about, we are not able to pay attention to the other person’s feelings and thoughts. Just like what the social worker did in the movie. We begin to project ourselves onto them or become judgmental because we feel threatened by what they said. Sometimes we act out because we don’t know what to do. I believe there isn’t any wrong or right way of talking to people. But if what you are doing is not going to bring the result you want, in this case, making the other person feel heard by you, here are some tips that may help you.
Ask for more information. “what happened?”; “what made you feel angry/sad/upset/frustrated?”
Ask about feelings. “how did you feel when he did that?”; “how are you feeling now?”
Reflect to show you listened. “you are angry with her because this and this happened.”
Validate to show you understand. “Of course you are angry, they made that decision without asking your thought.”
Relate after they feel heard. “Did I get it?”
Ask for permission before giving your opinions. “Do you want to hear my side?”; “I have different opinions; do you mind me sharing them?”
It takes a lot of courage and effort to do this experiment. You will definitely feel weird and uncomfortable at the beginning, especially when you don’t agree with the other person or thinking it is not you. It takes time to be mentally prepared and master the skill. Hope this will help you to achieve your goal.
For more information and skills, feel free to book a session with Jing through (312)781-2850 ext. 1010 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about Jing, click www.psychologytoday.com/profile/708243