"It was a day before the finals when my friend called me up and told me that her parents were separating. I did not know how to respond and remember feeling helpless. She tried deflecting away from the topic to the exam which we had to write in a few hours but I nudged her on to talk about it if she wished to. Finding this a relief my friend poured out her stress and went onto speak for 20 minutes - things which (she later confessed) she never expected to share with anyone.
There were pauses, a lot of them, but I tried not to fill the silence. I hummed along in agreement and acknowledgement of whatever she was saying. I could hear the distress in her quivering voice as she finally spoke - as if she had been carrying it for a long time. I wished to help her but I understood that she was not looking for solutions or feedback. She simply needed to unload her frustration and I found myself lucky enough to be a trained listener. I simply reminded her that I was there for her. Somehow that reassured her and was enough to strengthen her in the face of her problems. My experience taught me that while we cannot offer constructive solutions all the time (something which I feel should be avoided unless asked for), learning how to listen better can certainly help in providing a safe space. No matter how insignificant it seems, listening definitely nurtures people."