The Power of Listening
Posted by Dr. Vollmer on August 30, 2013
“He told me he was sorry for what he was doing. He was willing to die,” Tuff told ABC. Antoinette Tuff demonstrates the power of human connection in preventing antisocial behavior. She approached Michael Hill, an almost school shooter, with dignity and compassion, thereby preventing an enormous tragedy. Ms. Tuff gave Mr. Hill and ear, a compassionate audience, allowing Mr. Hill to reflect on his behavior before he proceeded to hurt innocent children. This story illustrates the value of human kindness in the prevention of serious human destruction. It parallels the work of psychotherapy, where human to human understanding helps people think about their behavior, rather than act impulsively. There is no checklist, or automated treatment, but rather a sense of understanding human suffering, because, as Ms. Tuff, explained to Mr. Hill, she too, has gone through hard times. This remarkable empathy led to heroism that was celebrated by President Obama. I imagine that instinctively, Ms. Tuff knew, that if she could see this 20 year old gentleman, as a man in pain, and not a horrible murderer, then she had a chance to help him. Her instincts proved right, as she was a compassionate person, believing that with a little self-revelation, she could change the course of history. It seems to me that she saw Mr. Hill as a man looking for help, but not knowing how to ask for it, and so she supplied an ear, giving him the intervention he needed, but did not know how to elicit. This story should be our model for how to help the mentally ill. They need understanding and caring, and sometimes, not all the time, this simple modality, will prevent violent behavior.