Taking time to listen


Springtime in Nebraska can be a roller coaster. 70 degrees and sunny one day to high winds and 40 degrees another day. Mother Nature appears to either be angry or simply confused. 

The weather extremes this year include drought, intense winds, and temperature swings. Recently, parts of the state have experienced uncontrolled fires which have left some Nebraskans with destroyed property, loss of potential income, and even loss of life. The most recent natural disaster in Nebraska reminds us of the uncertainties of daily living.

Nebraskans pride themselves on taking care of one another when they are faced with loss and adversity. This generosity has been witnessed by people who donate money, their time, or work to bring awareness about a specific issue or event. The COVID-19 pandemic and the 2019 flood are two examples of how individuals have come together to aid and care for their neighbors, friends, and communities.

People coming together to help each other is critical in taking the beginning steps of recovery from a disaster. Specifically, having someone to talk to is a key component of recovery from trauma. There are times when you are in the role as the listener and at other times you may be the person needing the listening ear. If you are the person in the role of a listener here are some tips to increase your effectiveness.

Be there for others.

This may be a physical presence, or it may be in the form of a phone call, video chat, or text message. Invite others to share with you about their day or experience. A text, of “How are you doing?” can send the message I care about you, and I am interested to know what is happening with you.

Listen and watch.

A good listener asks open-ended questions like, “How are you feeling?” or “Tell me more about your experience.” Good listeners allow the person to talk. Asking follow-up questions that encourage the other person to speak shows that you are interested and are attentive to what the other is saying. “Tell me more” is a comment that you can make to enable a person to continue to share.

Sharpen your communication skills.

Does your body language say you care or are paying attention? Maintaining appropriate eye contact and physical touch can communicate your interest in what the other person is saying. Being comfortable with silence in the conversation can also show respect to the other person. It can allow them the time and space they need to process thoughts and feelings. Resist the urge to offer quick advice or pass judgment. Often this type of communication is not helpful or productive. It can lead to negative feelings.

Normalizing feelings and behaviors.

A person who experiences trauma from a disaster can often feel a vast range of emotions in an hour, day, or week. There is no “right” way to feel after an intense experience. As a listener you can acknowledge the feelings of the person by saying, “It sounds like you are feeling….. or “That must have been difficult/frustrating/frightening” or “That sounds like a common reaction to…”

Take care of yourself.

Being a good friend, neighbor, or community member can be tiring. Listening to someone’s story or trauma can be upsetting, disturbing, and simply hard. These thoughts and feelings are common. When one is empathic it is easy to take on the feelings of others which can lead to your own feelings of being overwhelmed. Self-care is important when engaging in listening. Activities like self-reflection, mediation, exercise, or participating in a hobby are examples of self-care. Taking time for yourself will help you be able to give of yourself more fully.

In the next couple of months more storms will be on the horizon. Engaging in listening to those impacted by the latest storms will be just one way to assist with recovery, practice kindness, and build community.

Author: Dr. Michelle Krehbiel, Nebraska Extension, Youth Development Specialist

This article is based on Peer Listening written by the Sea Grant: Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium 

June Calendar 

June 1: 100th T-shirt Sizes due.

June : 4-H T-shirt Orders due.

June 1:  YQCA (Quality Assurance), Pierce Co. Fairgrounds, 1 and  6 p.m.

June 1: Youth Leadership Conference (YLC) Registration due.

June 2: Mini Seasonal Sign Workshop, 4-H Building, Wayne Co. Fairgrounds, 9 a.m.-Noon (Registration due May 27)

June 2: Virtual Bee Hotel Workshop, via Zoom, 1:30-3:30 p.m. (Registration due May 20).

June 3-20: Online Horticulture Contest.

June 6: Acrylic Painting Workshop, 4-H Building, 2 - 5 p.m., Wayne Co. Fairgrounds (Registration due May 27).

June 6, 13, 20, 27: Dog Workouts, Wayne Co. Fairgrounds, 6:30 p.m. (Registration  June 3).

June 6: District Horse Show, Chadron.

June 7: District Horse Show, Guide Rock.

June 8: Desert/Fairy Garden Workshop, Wayne Greenhouse, 9:30-10:30 a.m., (Registration due May 27).

June  8: District Horse Show, Albion.

June 9: Clover Kid Camp, 9 - 11:30 a.m., Bressler Park (Registration due June 3).

June 9: District Horse Show, Raymond.

June 10: District Horse Show, Kearney.

June 12-17: Big Red Camps, Lincoln.

June 14: 4-H Council, 5 p.m. 4-H Building, Wayne Co. Fairgrounds

June 15: Terrarium Workshop, Wayne Greenhouse, 9:30-10:30 a.m., (Registration due June 3)

June 15: Mid-Year Enrollments due.

June 15: All ID’s due.

June 15: DNA Samples due to Office.

June 15: Online DNA and Breeding nominations due.

June 15: Quality Assurance (YQCA) must be completed.

June 15: Horse Level Testing for County Fair must be complete.

June 15: Livestock Achievement Program Registration due.

June 16: Barn Quilt Workshop, Wayne Co. Fairgrounds, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.  (Registration due June 3).

June 16: Blanket Ladder Workshop (stain wood), Wayne Co. Fairgrounds, 2 - 5 p.m. (Registration due June 3).

June 20: Extension Office Closed, Juneteenth observed.

June 22-23: PASE / Life Challenge, Lincoln (Registration due June 1)

June 23: Blanket Ladder Workshop (assemble), Wayne Co. Fairgrounds, 9-11:00 a.m. (Registration due June 3).

June 23: Sola Flower Workshop, Wayne Co. Courthouse, 1:30-4:30 p.m. (Registration June 15).

June 23-26  Wisner Junior Livestock Show.

June 24: Pillowcase Workshop, Wayne Co. Courthouse, Two sessions 9 a.m. - Noon OR 1 - 4 p.m. (Registration due June 15).

June 24: State 4-H Public Speaking Contest (Registration due June 1).

June 24-26: Youth Leadership Conference (YLC), Nebraska State 4-H Camp, Halsey.

June 28: Chunky Pillow Workshop, 9 - 10:30 a.m., Wayne Co. Courthouse (Registration due June 15).

June 30: Creative Mix Food Workshop, 9 - 11:30 a.m., Grace Lutheran Church Basement (Registration due June 15).

June 30: Entries for Animals, Contest Day, & 4-H Building Exhibits, except Floriculture & Horticulture due online

June 30: Clover Kid Animal Entries due online.

June 30: Animal Counts and Bonus Auction Sign-up due online.

June 30: Bucket Calf Records, Cat and Dog Vaccination Records, Shopping in Style Written Reports, $15 Challenge Records, Favorite Foods Contest, Presentation Contest DUE to the Extension Office.