if not all of us have been with someone we have wanted to help through a
difficult time. How should we best do
so? What should we best say and how
should we say it to comfort someone in destress? Or how should we best ask for or accept help when we need it? Nance Guilmartin has made a laudible attempt
to describe numerous difficult situations and possible ways of dealing with
them in Healing Conversations: What to
Say When You Don’t Know What to Say.
Sometimes it may be quite easy to comfort someone or give good advice,
at other times it may be a whole lot more difficult, and in still more
difficult situations, listening may be the only comfort we can give.
emphasises the importance of listening and its healing potential. Showing that one cares in the appropriate
manner can sometimes bridge a difficult communication gap. Listening is much more than just being
quiet. It’s about paying attention to
what people say, what they don’t say, and what they mean. It is important to any healing conversation. A meaningful conversation is much more than
just talking or asking questions. The
stories Guilmartin presents aim at making us more sensitive to how persons feel
in similar situations, and in my opinion, they are effective in attaining their
stories range from how to start a healing conversation, asking for help, a
reminder that what comforts you may not comfort someone else, what to do when
you don’t have the answers, to mention only a few. The problems dealt with range from coping with the end of a
relationship, bankrupcy, a serious or terminal illness, facing surgery, waiting
for test results, the difference between a cure and healing to how to be with
someone in pain. Difficult
conversations at work are also illuminated, e.g. when staff don’t get along,
how to deal with angry customers, giving and receiving critical feedback, or
dealing with the difficulties of being laid off. Difficulties arising from divorce, having to live alone, and the
pains of death are also dealt with. The
book is written in an easy-to-read style and aims to appeal to all of us who
face difficult situations, not only at counsellers and therapists, although
they are almost certain to benefit too from it. A list of useful sources is also provided at the end of the book.
recommend Healing Conversations as a
well written, interesting and useful book.
© 2003 Markus
Wolf recently attained his doctorate in philosophy through the University of
South Africa (UNISA), one of the leading distance education universities. He lives in Austria where he now works as a
general translator for the Austrian Federation of the Blind and Partially
Sighted (Österreichischer Blinden- und Sehbehindertenverband) and as a general
librarian in their audio library. His aim is to continue with philosophy
professionally, either through a teaching position or as a philosophical
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