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How to Find Someone Who Listens

A Valued Listener
Part 2 of 2

As we discussed in Part One, young people experience many demands in school . . . from teachers, coaches, friends, and extracurricular activities. In addition to some of these, you may also have household chores, a part-time job, or be responsible for taking care of siblings, neighborhood kids, or an older relative.

As a result of things coming at you from all directions, you may be feeling stressed out. As we previously pointed out, we all go through these stressful times…it’s a normal part of living life. For some, the pressure is greater than others, but everyone – young and old alike – experiences pressure and, therefore, need to learn to manage it in a sensible way.  When we're young, we don’t always have the experience necessary to handle things in the most effective way. As a result, we all could benefit from someone who will listen to us and, if needed, offer advice – a valued listener, or mentor, if you will.

"We do not live a level life, but one of contrasts and patchwork;
now a little joy, then a sorrow, now a sin and then a generous or brave action.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Benefits of a Valued Listener

Having a trusted adult become your valued listener can help you in many ways. This person can be a sounding board – someone you can talk to about anything. You may have some very serious circumstances to discuss – alcohol, drug use, sexual activity, the issue of cheating in school, or friends who are becoming negative influences. At the same time, you may also just want to talk about some cool stuff – sports, fashion, or the latest Xbox games. The really amazing thing is that once you find the right person, you'll be able to share and discuss almost anything.

One thing is for certain - YOU need to make the choice and selection of the adult who will be your valued listener and support you in this way. You may be wondering why. First, it’s such an important selection that you can’t leave this choice to someone else…you have to make the call yourself. Second, you have to have a certain feeling that this is the right person to assist you, and you're the only one who can determine if that feeling is there about someone…or not.  And, last, you'll be much more willing to share things and ask important questions if you selected this individual than if someone selected this person or volunteered themselves to fill this role. So, accept 100% of the responsibility and go to work to make this determination.

How Do I Find a Valued Listener?

You're probably asking yourself, “How am I going to find this person?”

First, understand that this may be one of the most important choices that you'll make in your youth. Don’t expect it to be a simple or easy task. It will require diligence on your part, especially in the beginning when you're working to identify your potential candidates. It may take you some time, but keep working at this until your selection has been made and confirmed.

What exactly makes an essential valued listener/mentor? Here are a few personal qualities that might help you evaluate individuals as you think about them:

Kindness/Interested in Others
Someone who has a genuine interest in helping others and their well-being;

Intelligent/Wise
Someone who has good sense and good judgment

Positive Outlook/Attitude
Someone who is positive and optimistic 

Fun/Funny/Humorous
Someone you enjoy being around

Admiration/Respect
Someone you admire and respect

You need someone you can share your thoughts and feelings with about anything. After sharing your concerns, your valued listener should ask you relevant questions and help you explore your issues or concerns and offer helpful suggestions. And you must trust that your valued listener will keep all your conversations just between the two of you.     

With the understanding that everyone’s situation is different, outlined below is a list of individuals you should consider in making your list of potential candidates:

  • One of Your Parents or Guardians.....In most cases, few will love you as much as they do.
  •  Grandparent or Close Relative.....These individuals know your family and often will already understand your situation best.
  • An Older Sibling.....If grown, and in college or on a positive career path, he or she may also be a great choice.
  •  A School Counselor.....This person is trained and familiar with the challenges of youth.
  •  Teacher or Coach.....Both have experience in working with, and understanding, youth development.
  • Youth Group Advisor.....This person may be affiliated with your place of worship or other organization of which you're a member.
  • Neighbor.....You may know and respect an adult neighbor who would be a great choice for you.
  • Friend of the Family.....There may be someone who knows your family well and has impressed you in a positive way.

It may take you a while and you can’t really rush the evaluation and selection process. When you do make your selection, simply approach him or her and ask, “Could I talk to you confidentially sometime?” If you're asked what it’s about, simply respond, “Just about life in general and for some occasional advice.” You'll be pleasantly surprised by how flattered this person will be that you asked, and also how delighted he or she will be to help. By approaching this person, you already have implied that you consider him or her to be very special to you. Most adults will jump at the chance to help you in this way.  

What If I Can’t Find Someone?

Sometimes one’s family and personal circumstances are such that a young person, despite genuine interest and effort, finds it very difficult (if not almost impossible) to establish a relationship with a valued listener. If this is your case, don't give up. You must understand that finding a valued listener can make a real difference in your life.

If you find you cannot find a mentor using the suggestions outlined here, you need to do one of two things: 1) talk to someone mentioned in the categories above and ask for help in finding a valued listener (and there is a good chance this will work for you); or 2) hit the Internet and do some research.

There are a number of mentoring and support groups that provide services in finding qualified adults to those needing a valued listener. You most likely can find such an individual in your own city – no matter how small it may be. You can start with the National Mentoring Partnership (www.mentoring.org) for information about getting started. 

Written by Shawn Jackson

- OTHER PART IN THIS SERIES -

Part 1
Why Everyone Needs a Listening Ear
A Valued Listener

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“The most important single influence in the life of a person is another person . . . who is worthy of emulation.” Paul D. Shafer