I hear ya!
August 9, 2011 9:04 AM   Subscribe

I've come to realize that I'm a really good listener. Could I make a career out of this?

I've always been told that I'm a very good listener. I always just assumed it was other people trying to make me feel good about my lack of other obvious talents.

However, I'm slowly realizing that I really am a good listener. For example, this past weekend a friend was feeling a bit lonely so I headed to her house where "we" chatted for a good two hours. Later, it dawned on me that she did the majority of the talking and I did the listening. She talked about all sorts of things - many things that I didn't have any experience or knowledge in. Still, I was able to form intelligent questions to encourage the conversation on. This happens a lot with a variety of people. I think I am a good listener.

Could I turn this into a job/career? It almost feels like being a psychologist, except I'm not offering any advice or insights. I'm just someone you could talk to. Many times I wished for someone to talk to. And oftentimes an "outsider" is the best person to talk to.

Would this work? Why? or Would it not work? What would I need to consider in order to make this work? Or is it a totally stupid idea?
posted by Sassyfras to Human Relations (22 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Have you considered volunteering for The Samaritans, if they exist where you are? They need people there just to listen, as that is why they are there - not to contribute advice, but to allow the person on the phone to unburden themselves.

What makes you think you are a good listener - do you let people rant or let it all out and wait, or do you remember the conversation afterward?
posted by mippy at 9:09 AM on August 9, 2011

It almost feels like being a psychologist, except I'm not offering any advice or insights. I'm just someone you could talk to.

A therapist is often more valuable as someone to talk to than as someone to get specific advice/insights from.
posted by John Cohen at 9:12 AM on August 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

I volunteered with the Samaritans. If interested, I can give you advice over memail.
posted by sweetkid at 9:12 AM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

2nding John Cohen about psychologists. A lot of the time they're just there to help you reach your own conclusion about what to do.

Also, school counselor comes to mind.
posted by biochemist at 9:33 AM on August 9, 2011

Think about jobs or volunteer work with agencies like the Red Cross -- where you're often going into disaster situations and there are definite services you're providing, but often you're also a friendly face for people to see and talk to.

Also victim's advocacy agencies that work with court cases, or court appointed special advocates.

Many mental health jobs at the lower levels require way more listening than advice or insights -- people just often need to be heard. I worked for residential casework and we would take consumers to the grocery store, the bank, various activities, all while chatting about their experiences.
posted by bizzyb at 9:34 AM on August 9, 2011

Another vote for psychologist. But also consider being a mediator.
posted by goggie at 9:44 AM on August 9, 2011

Still, I was able to form intelligent questions to encourage the conversation on. This happens a lot with a variety of people.

Can you figure out how you do that, and teach others how to -- books? seminars? That's something a lot of people would like to be better at, I think.
posted by kmennie at 9:45 AM on August 9, 2011

Response by poster: A little more background: I don't have a degree in anything and at this point I don't think I could afford to get a degree in anything. I was hoping to become a professional "listener" but not be held liable (are psychologists held liable?). I almost envision it as a therapist/psychology setup - where someone comes to my office, we sit down and chat, and then . . . I get paid. Sounds kinda skeevy, I know. BUT, I remember numerous times in my life when I couldn't afford a therapist/psychologist and really just wanted/needed someone to talk to. I think a professional listener would be cool. You pay them $20 or whatever, and you get to talk to someone, unload, vent, whatever.
posted by Sassyfras at 9:47 AM on August 9, 2011

Life coach?
posted by hazyjane at 9:51 AM on August 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

There have definitely been times in my life where I would have been willing to pay for someone to listen to me but not for a psychologist. There may be a niche you can fill here. Or maybe I'm just weird.
posted by madcaptenor at 9:52 AM on August 9, 2011

The best ministers I've known have been very good listeners, but it also takes way more than"just" listening to be a good minister.
posted by naturalog at 9:52 AM on August 9, 2011

I saw an article about a woman with a website a while ago who advertised being your surrogate mom, who you could call up for advice, sympathy, or scolding if you needed a borrowed mom to talk to. She didn't charge much (compared to a shrink) and apparently did a fairly robust business. She said in the interview she talked to a lot of college students going through bad breakups or struggling with finals who, for whatever reason, couldn't get support from their parents, or didn't want to burden their parents. So, yes, there's a niche for this.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:12 AM on August 9, 2011 [6 favorites]

A Google search for career listener brought up someone who calls herself a "Professional Listener, M.S. in Counseling and Guidance." So, it can be done. (Also, what Eyebrows McGee said.)
posted by bentley at 10:26 AM on August 9, 2011

posted by WeekendJen at 10:48 AM on August 9, 2011

I would think you want to go in the life coach direction. While I think this is cool, I would still do something like a training or a volunteer position on a helpline. Something I learned is that there's a difference between listening to your friends, and being an ear for chronically lonely, mentally ill or upset people who want to talk. It can be very, very, rewarding, but it's also exhausting and upsetting at times (not to mention potentially dangerous). And there are reasons there is training and a lot of peer support and security measures in place for those types of things.
posted by sweetkid at 10:57 AM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

High school guidance counselor
Career coach
Hotline worker at a call center
Retail sales
Help desk in a lobby

Anything where the person comes to you and describes something vague that they want but don't know how to find and then you direct them to it. Or possibly even some kind of planner, where the person has a vision and says "I want this and this and this" and then you make the calls and put it together. Wedding planner? Interior designer?
posted by Nixy at 11:54 AM on August 9, 2011

You could be a therapist, but not necessarily a psychologist. A lot of social work is really just empathetic listening and guiding questions, and grad school for social work takes two years instead of four.
posted by pineappleheart at 12:28 PM on August 9, 2011

What about being some kind of telephone therapist for cheaper rates? I'm sure there are dodgy ones, but you could do some kind of intro course...if you know the basic ethical and practical considerations and they're happy to pay, it might be ok.
posted by Not Supplied at 12:30 PM on August 9, 2011

Life coaching is more like mentoring than just listening. Although there are no set rules about life coaching, most of them have niches, so it helps to have an area of expertise rather than just listener.

What you may want to try is a test run on Fiverr and set up a Twitter account to promote it. See if you like it and can handle it, then set up a website and do the business card thing.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 12:33 PM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, who is going to pay for a life coach just to listen to them? Life coaching is coaching, which involves a good deal of talking, direction-setting, and problem solving. Life coaches talk a lot more than therapists, in my experience, because they are expected to give direction and advice, not just listen and guide thinking.
posted by ch1x0r at 12:49 PM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: sweetkid - you bring up a good point about some safety concerns as well as dealing with people that are seriously mentally ill and in need of more help than just someone to talk to.

Thank you for all the suggestions. To narrow it a bit - I'm specifically looking to open a business or a service where people would pay me to listen to them. I'm not looking for a job in which being a good listener is part of the job (i.e. bartender, minister, etc.). I don't know if that makes sense or not. But there have been many times in my life when I wanted someone to talk to, really someone I could pay to listen to me, but I didn't need a psychologist or a therapist (and certainly didn't need the cost associated with a psychologist, therapist). I just needed someone to talk to - someone objective, someone not in my life. I'd pay for that.
posted by Sassyfras at 12:56 PM on August 9, 2011

Okay what about radio advice personality or advice columnist? Consulting? This is really out there, but maybe something that involves cold reading, like tarot reader? If you want to just be a sort of friend-for-hire, you could maybe try elder care/visiting?

You could put an ad on craigslist for whatever you want to sell and see what happens. Be warned that there will be a lot of crazy people to weed through and maybe over the phone or in writing would be safer than an in-person type gig.
posted by Nixy at 2:05 PM on August 9, 2011

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