In this current day or digital connect and constant social media contact, it can be unusual to have a basic conversation with someone who is truly listening. When was the last time you felt really heard by someone?
We talked with Claire Samantha of Phone My Friend about her new listening service and how she is addressing the too often unfulfilled need to be heard.
SBT: Can you tell what Phone My Friend is exactly and how it works?
Claire: Yes of course. Phone my friend is a Listening Service that is confidential. An individual calls and talks with me about whatever they want. I listen like how they would want their best friend to listen to what they have to say. Which sounds simple. And it is but it’s also something we don’t get much of in our lives anymore. So it’s a chance for people to talk to someone who is curious and makes the caller feel heard and understood.
SBT: What kinds of things do people like to talk about?
Claire: it can be anything really. Work and relationships are common topics. It could be stress issues from things at work and just wanting to vent without someone trying to fix it. They just want to be heard. It can be a new relationship that they want to talk about that they may not want to talk to friends about. It could be a new mother who is wanting emotional support from someone who knows what it is like to be a new mom. Or any number of other topics.
SBT: How is what you do different from counseling or therapy or other similar services? Some people may wonder what the distinction is.
Claire: It’s the objective I would say. It’s what we are trying to accomplish in the interaction. A counselor for example has a goal of helping the person solve a specific problem. Either helping them find some action to take in their life to remedy a situation or to help them deal with something emotional and find some piece or integration of some part of themselves.
But I am not doing either of those things. The goal of Phone My Friend is just for people to be heard. To have the rare experience of sharing things that are important to them in a phone conversation with someone who is interested and curious but who has no judgement or agenda. I don’t give advice. I don’t try to tell them how I once had a worse thing happen to me or otherwise “one up” their story. I don’t tell them why they should not feel how they feel. I also don’t tell them that they are perceiving things wrongly. I just listen and let them unpack things for themselves and just let them be “seen” by another human being who simply cares.
SBT: Are there things you don’t talk about with people?
Claire: Yes. They have to be over 18 of course in the first place. Then I can’t talk with someone about breaking the law of course. I also am not a suicide hotline and will get them to someone to help them if that is what they need.
SBT: Where did the idea for Phone My Friend come from?
Claire: My personal experience. My career has really been doing this for some time. I am a licensed esthetician so in the process of that work you listen to people as they vent or share their stories which gave me the opportunity to hone my skills. But it was the experience of needing to be heard myself when a number of major life experiences happened to me that really made me realize that there was a need for this as a service that people could access when they want to. I experienced a painful suicide loss and postpartum depression for example and just wanted someone to listen. Just listen. Not give me advice. Or tell me how they had it worse. Or tell me how to feel different. I just wanted to be heard. When I realized what a rare and wonderful thing it is to have someone just provide you with human attention without any agenda attached to it I knew that I wanted to provide the same gift to other people. So that’s how it came about.
SBT: It seems like we have even more need for this now even though there is so much connection in the form or social media.
Claire: Yes. People frequently comment to me that social media does not make them feel more connected. That is not always the case of course. It’s great to see family and friends on social sites but often people feel excluded from some events they are seeing pictures of but did not attend or they mention something that happened to them and people sometimes have unhelpful comments. I have noted a number of articles in the media about the effects of social media and how it often contributes to feeling of disconnection and loneliness for some people especially if they are going through a tough or painful experience of some sort.
SBT: How can people learn more about Phone My Friend?
Claire: Just visiting www.phonemyfriend.com is the best way. There are more details on the site and more information how it works.