Listen In… Kvetch Out

Melinda Walsh

Love Applied can take many forms, and one useful one is knowing when to talk and when to listen.  It’s easy to lose sight of which is which when faced with an emotionally charged situation, such as a loved one who is facing serious illness or even death.  Susan Silk and Barry Goldman share the following in their opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times:

When Susan had breast cancer, we heard a lot of lame remarks, but our favorite came from one of Susan’s colleagues. She wanted, she needed, to visit Susan after the surgery, but Susan didn’t feel like having visitors, and she said so. Her colleague’s response? “This isn’t just about you.”

As you might imagine, Susan’s response was to wonder how on earth her breast cancer was about someone else.

As someone who has lost four close friends since 2008 to illness, I’ve seen and heard first hand the inappropriate things people say and do.  I’ve come to understand that weird things can come out of someone’s mouth when they are emotionally uncomfortable so I have grown a little compassion.  But I thought this article gave a great strategy for deciding when to listen (and to whom) and when to kvetch.


1.  Draw a circle and put the name of the person in trauma at the center.

2.  Draw a larger circle around the first one and put the names of anyone who is the next closest person in the center.

3. Repeat as necessary with parents, siblings, close friends, acquaintances, etc.


Susan and Barry call this series of rings, “The Kvetching Order.”  The person in the center can say anything they want, to anyone.  Everyone else can say those things, too, but only to someone in a larger ring.

When talking to someone in a smaller ring than yours, simply offer comfort and a listening ear, not advice.  Don’t make what they are saying about you, either.  If you feel the need to talk about how the trauma is affecting you, by all means talk about it.  Just talk about it to someone in a larger ring.  As they put it in the article, “Comfort IN.  Dump OUT.”

So now you know!  And that’s Love Applied!



  1. Great advice . Thanks for sharing it, Melinda.

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