Our Experimental College encourages current students to develop and teach a class for the Tufts community. Previous classes have included those based on personal interests, current events, and more. What would you teach and why?
“I want to die.” is the alarming message that appears in my chat-requests at exactly 12:29 AM. The blue-bubble floats on my computer screen, a dialogue waiting to happen. It’s getting late, but I don’t waste time. I click ‘Accept’. The person begins to type, and I begin to listen.
Listening is the toughest life-skill to learn, but once mastered, it’s invaluable. Knowing this, I joined 7cups, an online therapy website, to help others while learning how to listen. It hasn’t been easy. In the months I’ve spent volunteering, I’ve encountered things from schizoid personality disorder to sexual-abuse to incest. Whatever the situation, I remain nonjudgmental, focusing on helping the person parse through their feelings. But the toughest part by far has been not offering advice.
I can’t tell the girl who wants to stand up to her father’s abuse what to do. It’s site policy; you don’t know their situation, and you don’t want to put them at risk. So, even when people are begging for advice, I must find other ways to comfort them. This is how I learned to actively listen: to ask open-ended questions, and reflect a person’s words back in a thoughtful manner that helps them understand their situation, and feel more in-control of it.
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