The 7 Types of Listeners


On the path of grief, one of the greatest treasures hidden within the darkness of sorrow is finding the gift of genuinely compassionate listeners. Those people who care with their hearts in all sincerity while listening with both ears open and their mouth most often in the closed position. These are the people who don’t just yell down to you from their happiness to check on you while you are sitting in the pit of despair, while refusing to leave the comforts of their contented life. The genuine listener dares to venture into the darkness and sits beside you, as if to say, “I don’t know how long the darkness will engulf you, but I want you to know that while it does, you can count on me to be standing beside you, and ready to hear your heart. This kind of a listener is a rare and precious person indeed. I have been blessed to have found a handful of precious people in my life that fit this criteria. Unfortunately, not all listeners that encounter a widow are able to listen in the way we need. In fact some don’t listen at all.

Anxious Listeners-— These listeners are gripped with fear when we come near. Not because they dislike the widow in their life, but because they are terrified of saying the wrong thing. They worry about making the widow cry or offending her. Sadly, this type of listener usually has a hard time talking to us at any length because a conversation of any depth because of their own stress level when we come near.

The Lip Service Listeners– These listeners want to appear compassionate but don’t really want to hear your reality. They say “how are you?” but they really are hoping and expecting you just say “I’m fine.” To give them a lengthy ‘real’ answer is really more than they are interested in hearing. They are happy to tell you they will be praying for you and walk on their merry way.

The Re-Directing Listeners— This type of listener is known for changing the topic in the conversation. You start sharing a memory of your beloved and they redirect you, as if its bad for you to talk about him as this might make you upset. These are the listeners that use toddler techniques on grown-ups and expect us to not notice. Sadly, what this listener doesn’t realize is that by directing the conversation away from your husband, they are sending a subliminal message to you don’t have the full freedom to be whatever emotion you are feeling while you are in their presence.

The Talking Listener— The talking listener does just that, talk more than listen. They seem to forget the old adage that God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason, to listen more than we talk. This type of listener is famous for giving widows advice they didn’t ask for, or using those phrases that always seem to push buttons, like “Well at least you had a husband, a lot women never did,” or “His body was just a shell anyway,” or “Well, time to move on, there are other fish in the sea.”

The “Thank God it’s Not Me” Listener— These listeners are established in their happy, successful lives. Their plans are still smooth, their lives haven’t been crushed by tragedy. They care only for measured time frames, then when you aren’t present, they celebrate that God hasn’t allowed such a tragedy in their own life. Deep down, they may even think they are a little better than others simply because their life hasn’t been broken or shaken.

The Comparers – A comparer seems to try to comfort you with comparisons, which by the way, is usually not a good plan. For example “Anyone knows how you feel that has lost a loved one before.”

“Wow, your situation is so much worse that mine, I had my husband for 50 years and didn’t have little children when he died.” “Did you know Susie [another widow] is dating again, she met a great guy,”“How come you haven’t started dating yet, compared to most people, you are taking so much longer.”

The “Judgey” Listener– After entrusting these listeners with your openness and vulnerability, they tend to respond to your raw pain with judgmental statements. “You shouldn’t be thinking of re-marriage right now,” or “It’s wrong that you feel anger,” or “You shouldn’t be still this sad after so many years.”

I am sure there are plenty of other examples of types of listeners we could jot down a description of. I’m also sure that though our intentions have been good and our own hearts have been in the right places, we have all made mistakes sometimes in our listening and care and concern for others in their times of need.

If you can think of another type of listener you’d care to share, please feel free to do so in the comments.

So if you asked me today, “What would be your ideal type of listener?….”

I would say…..

1) Someone who will love me unconditionally, no-matter how deep the darkness or struggle is that I choose to reveal to them.

2) Someone who truly cares, but doesn’t try to fix, judge, control or compare.

3) Someone who can bear with me through the hard stuff, who isn’t alarmed when I cry, and doesn’t mind when I repeat myself or show anger.

What qualities do you seek in an ideal listener?

What qualities do you avoid?

In Hope & Prayers,

From This Widow Mama


Dorothy lost her beloved husband Oct 2021 to a very unexpected bacterial pneumonia that quickly became septic shock. Her other half and best friend was born with a serious congenital heart defect. Because of that, she had always feared the possibility of being a widow, but she thought it more likely to be due to his heart, and more likely when her husband was in his 50s after the children were grown. Instead, he graduated to heaven just one week before turning 34. Dorothy was 36 with young sons ages 5 and 16 months who adored their Daddy. In less than 48 hours, the life Dorothy and her beloved husband so carefully built together shattered. They were blessed to share just over 8 wonderful, joyous and fun years of marriage. While her heart is so thankful to God for having had their journey together, she has struggled since his death with feeling hurt and let down by God. She has felt so devastated that their love story was short and ended so abruptly. Join her as she shares her unfolding journey of grasping to faith in Christ as she journeys through love, loss, single parenthood, honoring her husband's legacy and guiding her sons through their grief and life without Daddy.