A simple way to change the world.

Our communities seem to be in chaos, and it’s hard to know what to do—if anything. Such feelings of powerlessness leave most people feeling stressed, angry, sad, or lonely. Still, we must live our lives, work our jobs, and raise our children—all increasingly harder to do these days.

Mental health concerns are at an all-time high in this country.

That’s why emotions are running high right now. Mental health concerns are at an all-time high in this country. As a licensed mental health counselor, it’s my privilege to listen to others, provide support, and engage with increasingly more severe experiences of others’ depression, anxiety, and complicated grief.

As I counsel and deal with my own feelings of distress, I keep coming back to the simplest way I know. It’s not a fix-all or cure, but it is the one thing we can do today to increase our power and peace amid the storms:

Listen Up!

That’s right—choose to listen. Active listening is the most vital part of engaging effectively with yourself, others, and your world. It is a key objective in both my counseling and executive coaching work.

Plus, listening is the one thing you can do in any situation.

Empathetic Listening is a technique, which can help you manage emotions, avoid disruptive thoughts, and stay present and effective in your daily life. Here’s how to do it:

  • When engaging with others, stop multi-tasking and provide your [spouse, child, co-worker, store clerk, friend] with undivided attention.
  • During conversations, don’t think of what you want to say. Stop yourself from interrupting.
  • As you listen, observe the speaker’s mannerisms and try to read their emotions.
  • Accept the person and their opinions without passing quick judgement.
  • Ask clarifying and insightful questions to understand the other person’s thoughts or opinions.
  • Don’t feel you need to respond with answers, solutions, or alternatives. Simply accept the person and “be with” their words.
  • Respond by reflecting back to them and keeping your own responses simple.

It’s harder than you think, but it works! Much research has demonstrated the positive impact of listening well. By choosing to listen, we connect with others, develop trust, improve our decision-making abilities, and revitalize our own creativity, ideas, and passion.

And in a world that’s quickly changing, it’s the one thing we can do to stand our ground, keep our peace, and serve those around us.

All good ideas start with listening.

In fact, if you listen up, you might discover some surprising ways to not only manage these unsettling times—but also do some good.

Give it a try, and let me know how it goes!

Want to learn more about empathic listening or see the research? Reach out!

Do Good,


Drs. Garry and Jodi Vermaas

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