There is a common tendency for people, when someone is sharing a problem or concern with them, to skip the listening phase and jump to the possible solutions. Instead of listening, they rush to help the person solve the problem and identify a solution, because taking the time to listen does not seem valuable or necessary. People may think listening takes too much time or that it's not valuable or necessary when the problem is so obvious and pressing—like solving environmental problems or figuring out how to alleviate unemployment and poverty. However, it's crucial to learn how to listen because listening lays the groundwork or foundation for being able to solve problems in a way that is collaborative and respectful. No one will accept your proposed solution if they don’t think that you have heard and understood their viewpoint.
This video below shows the distinction between listening and solving problems in a very humorous way. Of course, there are times when someone just needs to solve the problem and remove the nail, so to speak. But in most cases, people’s more fundamental need is to be heard. Once we feel that we’ve been heard by our family members, neighbors, co-workers, or fellow citizens—that they genuinely understand where we are coming from—then we are ready to start thinking about solutions.
It's Not About The Nail (1:41)
When a listener sees something out of the ordinary or hears a trigger word, it is easy to jump to a conclusion. Here, he sees the nail but ignores her words, her tone of voice, her pleading eyes, and quickly determines the solution—get rid of the nail. He rushes to fix what to him is obvious but to her has nothing to do with what she is attempting to communicate to him. She wants him to hear and feel her emotional pain. He finally does when he says “that sounds really hard” and she melts with relief and then attempts to kiss him.