Sheryl Andrews
Sheryl Andrews

The Listening Detective

How Finding A Pathway To Patience Gave Him Hope

This article demonstrates how talking about what is not working can provide insights, give you hope and in Bob’s case provide a pathway to patience.

Let me start by telling you a little about what was happening when I met Bob networking. He was frustrated and very critical of himself and despite having made a number of changes things did not seem to be improving. He said, “Before I met you, I felt lost, and in a place I didn’t want to be. I didn’t know where to go or where to turn. The future felt hopeless, and I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. Then the universe put you in front of me.”

I started by asking him “What would he like to have happen? with the purpose of training his attention on what he wanted (the outcome).

As I listened he mentioned that he wanted to be more patient but he also talked about the problem and what had changed..

Bob wanted things to change, and so much had already changed. His wife had recently been diagnosed with a life changing disease that would leave her disabled and unable to talk or feed herself within a matter of years. This had been the catalyst for them to bring forward their planned move to the coast, a dream they had shared for a number of years. He also decided to semi-retire to be available to provide more support.

He was aware that he was extremely critical of himself and his wife and he didn’t want to be. Although he kept his frustration inside most of the time, sometimes his frustration leaked out, or he withdrew finding refuge in work or football.  By the time we got underway with the programme, the football season had just come to an end and he was considering retiring completely, so he needed some other strategies. In addition to his wife’s condition, reduced hours and  the usual stress of moving house, he had also discovered the new property needed far more work than he had at first anticipated.

Then there was the concern who will take care of their disabled son as they get older and the worry that their daughter could be carrying the same gene as her mother. (Fortunately they found out she wasn’t before we finished working together) And this was all going on inside because he did not want to burden his family with how he was feeling or what he needed.

Bob had hoped the move and reduced hours would be enough but they had somehow added to the stress opposed to reduce it.

But he was finding it hard and even though logically he knew that it would be more helpful if he were more patient, present and supportive inside he was feeling frustrated, irritated and alone.

Listening skills

When we are stuck and we want something to change it is a common pattern to talk about what we don’t want and what is not working. For some just venting and expressing their current emotions is enough to release feel good endorphins which in turn improves their cognitive capacity.

When we vent or download to a friend or co-worker it can lead to feeling less alone and even if there is nothing they can physically do to help, the presence of another human bearing witness to the struggle can be enough to settle our state and put us back in control of our thoughts and feelings.

And sometimes we get stuck telling the same story over and over. Yes maybe we feel better for a short period of time but eventually the frustration of hearing the same story over and over can cause even more stress and leave us even less resourced to solve the problem. When we start to think their is no point talking to anyone that can lead to feelings of isolation and hopelessness.

Chatting with purpose

That’s when I recommend my clients have clarity on their purpose for chatting and they learn to set their listener up for success. Do they want to vent? Do they want questions? Do they want feedback or suggestions? Do they want something physically done for them?

All too often we start talking and we have no real idea what we want the outcome of the talking to be. Talking about what is not working can be cathartic and can help us heal. With each telling you become more able to tell the story without it evoking the same level of emotions. Bit by bit the pain starts to be over there in the past and you start to be able to separate what happened then from what is happening now.

And sometimes telling the story of what did not work can become habitual. We may get some kind of comfort. That might be because in that moment we feel heard, seen and or understood. It might be because all the time we talk about the problem we are too busy to do anything about it. But these moments of comfort whilst talking are often temporary. When we tell the same story over and over it is likely that we may change it. We may catastrophise, exaggerate or emphasise certain parts of the story. We may play some parts down or ditch them all together and you the person telling the story is the only person who can determine if that is working for you. With considering what is working and what is not working and without noticing if the story is changing we can get lost in our own story.

Sometimes it is hard to change the story because no matter how much the story does not serve us, it is familiar and that can bring comfort.

By chatting with the purpose of really listening to what we say and checking on the impact it has on us. We can start to clarify what we mean by what we say and the impact of the story. Even if the story is entirely true it is still worth checking what is the impact of talking about it. Does it help? Does it change what is happening now in this moment? Can it change what will happen in the future?

When we talk to someone that is able to reflect back what we say, we literally get to hear the story from outside of us and we may hear it differently. We might resonate with some parts more than others. Noticing what is happening inside as you tell the story and the other person reflects back either what you have said or what it reminds them of is an opportunity again to tune into what is happening for you. Even if the person only ever uses our words and gestures exactly depending on their tone of voice, accent, gender and even their height and distance from you it could give you access to different information. The fact you are hearing your own thoughts outside of you and it sounds different also makes it easier for your brain to listen to you.

Typically clients come to me when they are sick of hearing themselves tell the same story over and over. My job is to listen and reflect back what has happened, what they would like to have happen and bear witness to changes.

Sometimes those changes highlight things that are not working and help steer them back on track and sometimes those changes indicate progress. The things I love most about this process is that we are each the author of our own story. We get to choose what to put in the next chapter and what to leave behind.

The power of metaphor

Bob had mentioned he wanted to be more patient and despite asking him questions about patient (the outcome) he was drawn to talk about frustration. It is easy when listening to people to assume they are being negative but what I assumed is that perhaps this frustration has some wisdom to share.

With this in mind I decided to find out what frustration knew about patience.

I started with questions like “And when frustration, frustration is like what? Where is frustration? What kind of frustration is that?

He became aware of an oval of frustration inside his chest that got larger when someone did something he disagreed with or he felt was wrong. He noticed that when he criticised or judged himself or others, the oval of frustration reduced and diminished slightly providing him with a moment of relief and respite. He also discovered that when he drank a pint down the pub it had the same affect. Whilst these strategies reduced the feeling of frustration it was often only temporary and he could easily be triggered and the frustration would instantly inflate.

When we explored where frustration oval came from it was often associated with change.

That was the moment when everything changed. He had run a very successful business for many years and in recent years had become a business coach.

He knew that he was good with change and that he had a process. At work when he was creating or managing change, he was focused, keen to learn and gave it 100%.

However this frustration was coming from change that had been imposed not change he asked for or wanted.

But now that he recognised it as ‘change’ and there was a spark of confidence because he knew he had a change process that worked.

By committing to work with me, he had already made some changes because he was now talking with the purpose of listening to himself and he had be proactive to set himself personal development task in between sessions where he practiced new behaviours. He was keen to learn and he gave it 100%.

This insight gave him hope and confidence and as a result he was able to then explore patient and find out more about, “What kind of patient is that? What kind of present? What kind of supportive? Then he mapped out the process of what happens in between where he is now and where he wanted to be.

As a result he started to change the way the he talked to himself and about himself. I became more proactive to notice and celebrate the smallest signs of progress.

The courage to ask for help

When asked what it had been like working with me, he said “It has been very good. It has been eye-opening. A very interesting way of doing things and totally different to the coaching I trained in, I now feel like I have found my pathway to patience, and now I want to use the same process to find a pathway to peace.”

It takes courage to talk to someone when you are not happy with your own behaviour. So I am always really honoured when someone trusts me enough to tell me their inside story. I also feel incredibly blessed when they give me permission to share their inside story. Many suffer in silence thinking it is just them. These inside stories whilst anonymous and with some details changed to protect the individual’s privacy, I believe they provide a guiding light for others to find their way out of some of the darkest places. If you or someone you know is feeling stuck and frustrated I hope this article gives you hope that you too can find a way out. Feeling stuck is bad enough but feeling alone with the problem can lead to feelings of hopelessness.

If you are reading this and you feel shame for how you behave, I want you to know you are not alone, and if you want support to make the changes, I am here to listen. I understand more than anyone the courage it takes to ask for help.

Please email me on or call 01329 286648 if you know that something needs to change but you don’t know where to start. Sometimes someone changing the way they listen is all the change that is needed for clarity and confidence to have space to emerge.



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About The Author

Sheryl Andrews (aka The Listening Detective)

Founder of Step by Step Listening, Sheryl Andrews has always been keen to create space where other people felt safe to speak their truth no matter what that was. She is well known for her ability to motivate, manage and mentor others through change and loves nothing more than helping others feel heard and understood. She soon discovered there were 8 different kinds of listening and often people started talking without knowing which they needed. At Step by Step Listening they create space to explore what kind of listening works to ensure individuals are resourced to work, learn and live at their best with others and on their own. .

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