A Listening Ear To Your Everyday Problems

Have you ever felt like your mind is filled with a lot of thoughts? Are those thoughts troubling your everyday life? Do you wish to tell someone about it, but not sure if they’re reliable enough for you to share your thoughts with them? Or have any of your family members or your close friends or relatives experienced something like this before? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, what you need is a listening ear to hear you out. But who should you go to for a listening ear?

A stock photo showing a worried person thinking in front of his laptop.
Our everyday life hassles such as work problems can lead to us not attending to the thoughts in our mind. Source: Unsplash

Other than counselling, where else can you go to if you want someone to listen to your problems, but you are hesitant to share with people in your personal lives? Perhaps you may want to check out Sidewalk Talk, a community project where they offer a listening ear to anyone for free.

What Is SideWalk Talk?

The PIC of Sidewalk Talk listening to a member of the public.
Mr Lim Meng Zhen, the person in charge of Sidewalk Talk giving a listener ear.

Inspired by Sidewalk Talk San Francisco, Sidewalk Talk is a non-profit community project that promotes free listening. Volunteers would go to public places, put up chairs, and invite any interested persons from among the public to sit down with them and talk about whatever they have in mind. This project’s main aim is to ‘create public awareness and remove the stigma of seeking mental health treatment and support, and to promote the importance of human connection through empathetic listening.’

Mr Lim Meng Zhen is a psychology lecturer, a volunteering enthusiast, and the person in charge of Sidewalk Talk Malaysia. This project started in September 2017. When asked why he started Sidewalk Talk Malaysia, he answered, “I hope to build up a support system, where people have one more place to go to when they need emotional support. We hope to serve the community by providing them with a pair of listening ears.

So far, Sidewalk Talk Malaysia has conducted 38 listening sessions. More than 250 people have participated and talked to them.

The Sidewalk Talk volunteers promoting their free listening project.
The team promoting their service in front of Sunway Pyramid Shopping Mall.

The Idea Behind This Listening Project – Human Connection

If we look around us, we see that everyone is busy with phones in their hand. Although surrounded by a million people, we still let our mind drift away by our phone. According to Mr Lim, the idea behind Sidewalk Talk is to establish human connection in this world when we are too reliant on our gadgets.

Humans are social creatures. Even if we prefer to isolate ourselves, we still yearn for connection with others. By sitting down, talking and listening to others, we would re-establish the connection that we may have lost for a while.

A volunteer of Sidewalk Talk listening  to a member of the public.
One of the volunteers giving a listening ear to a member of the public in front of Sunway Pyramid Shopping Mall.

How This Listening Project Can Help People

Mr Lim explained that this project is not aimed at direct intervention, but rather to go out and connect with other people. Sidewalk Talk is very different from counselling. In counselling, the counsellors would give advice to their clients. Sidewalk Talk does not allow the listeners to give advice, hence Sidewalk Talk should not be a substitute for counselling or for serious mental health issues.

This project however, does promote active empathetic listening and its benefits. They want to know more about the other person with no intention to reply with professional advice. By offering active listening, Sidewalk Talk is able to give a chance for people to be heard.

Sidewalk Talk volunteers promoting active listening.
A team of student volunteers explaining to people on their main objective of Sidewalk Talk.

How Do You Feel After Being Listened To?

A lot of research found that people generally feel better after being listened to. They finally can become more at ease with themselves after sharing their concerns and worries with their listeners. Of course, the Sidewalk Talk team could not vouch for the feelings of people they listened to. They could say that they felt good, but that can be subjective, as there may be some bias to that answer. To get the truth out of them, perhaps in the near future someone needs to conduct another research on this…

The one who decides how you feel is yourself. So, when was the last time you actually felt heard? Perhaps you should check out their next project on their blog. You may also see their updates or where they’re hosting their project from their Facebook.

Amal HAMIZAH

About Amal HAMIZAH

Psychologist by training, she has racked up years of writing experience, contributing to blogs and forums. She's into fashion and gastronomy, art, stationeries and literature too. And yeah, she also has a soft spot for cats.

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