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Why Strangers Make Better Listeners
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Thursday, February 23, 2017

by Mubeena, Founder at

Friends and family love you. But the relief offered by a stranger with no preconceived notions about you might just be what you need. Strangers are a clean canvas and do not enter with any expectations, wishes or desires connected to you. They are ideal for holding your time and space allowing you to process what you need to.

Throughout college in the U.S. almost 20 years ago, young people would seek me out as a freedom of expression board.

It started with friends and then suddenly they would bring others who were looking for the same kind of relief.

I came to be known as the “girl who’s heard it all”. From deep family secrets to relationship troubles and even overwhelmingly exciting news, nothing surprised me about any situation.

What made complete strangers trust me with their innermost thoughts, feelings, fears, dreams and ideas?

At the time, I just thought it was because I was the exotic international student who loved connecting with human beings. I was never shy or awkward around strangers. I would smile at everyone while entering an elevator or passing by a building on campus.

Not everyone smiled back, but smiling at strangers made my world less disjointed.

Back to the present day, I woke up one fine day in February 2016 and asked myself “How can I serve more people on a personal level?”

And during my daily meditation, I saw myself at the back of that college cafeteria listening to people who didn’t know me. The days when anyone could find me at the back of the cafeteria, pull up a chair and sit across me to rave, rant, spill, laugh, cry and even puke were oh so rewarding.

And so, I developed a formal Listening technique and have been applying it on individuals this past year. It serves people on a personal level to bring them relief and clarity without the usual judgment, labels, diagnoses, or advice.

I knew that the best way for me to serve others was by consciously NOT telling them what to do or how to be.

The idea of psychotherapy, counseling, astrology, or any discipline that imposes a value judgment on a person’s situation, personality or feelings was not an option I wanted to pursue.

So how did I decide to serve others? By being a conduit for individuals to freely engage in introspection to attain relief and clarity.

During my year of practicing professional listening, the one thing that’s been most appreciated is the fact that I am a total stranger to clients.

This is what they tell me about why self-reflecting aloud with a stranger they trust was so valuable:

Friend and Family Advice is Unwelcome

“Just plain listen to me. I don’t want your patronizing advice. I want a blank canvas to express myself right here and right now”

Clients find relief in the fact that I don’t have any relationship to them. I am not the friend they’ve known since childhood, nor a colleague who knows their strengths and weaknesses, and thankfully I am not a family member eternally claiming to know what’s in their best interest. When people wish to speak about dreams, mistakes, regrets and hopes – do not underestimate the blank canvas offered by a complete stranger across the table.

There is Too Much Judgment Going Around

“I’m tired of being told that I’m wrong, not good enough, that my big mistake has irreversible consequences, what I should’ve done, or I could’ve been this or that. I come with my flaws included”

For those who courageously tried it, talking to a stranger was an extremely clarifying experience. Why? Because they experienced no judgment. There was no moral policing about what they were going through. As a result, any pent up guilt started to release itself naturally. Guilt has no place if clarity and relief are to be achieved. Judgment is all too common. Criticism of imperfections and mistakes pervades every workplace, home and social circle. A stranger has no incentive to showcase ego especially in the absence of a no guilt-inducing agenda.

Total Confidence is Hard to Come By

“I don’t know who I can trust to keep my secret 100% safe. But I need to tell somebody because its just too exciting or too much of a burden”

Secrets don’t remain secrets. People known to you tend to tell all no matter how much they are sworn not to. There is an allure of scoring social points and reveling in others’ momentary oohs and aahs. Many of my individual clients admit they’ve been burned by betrayal. This is indeed a common source of silent hurt that confrontation doesn’t cure. So how does a stranger keep a secret better? Strangers literally have no one to tell, and clients never have to fear regretting the reveal. Clients get to claim relief with the kind of confidence they don’t ever stress about losing.

The Art of Understanding is Rare

“When friends listen to my rants they are quick to offer their version of events. Why can’t they come to my perspective and stay there with me for a bit?”

With all good intentions most people still do not know what listening is. The act of understanding is often short-lived when the one sitting across interrupts you, puts a spin on your story, tells you what you should be doing, thinking or feeling in the situation, puts your personality in a diagnostic box, and anything else that stops your train of thought. Most well meaning people still want to display their smarts, opinions and their way. A true Listener does not care to be one up on you with fancy feedback. The Listener’s only job is to absorb and act as a mirror so that a better version of you reverberates back.

I Wanted to Answer My Own Questions

“Expressing myself out loud makes all the difference. I came up with my own path in the sentences I spewed after”  

When listening truly, clients end up answering burning issues by themselves. The reason Listeners do not advise or offer solutions is rooted in this outcome. The need to provide answers dissolves in the client’s self-reflection. It happens every time. With a stranger as a serendipitous sounding board, clients tell me of their freedom to spill thoughts as they occur with no reservation or hesitation. And with the expectation that answers are uncertain, the client creatively engineers their own.

Summary of Article

The Big Ideas

01. my pursuit

I knew that the best way for me to serve others was by consciously NOT telling them what to do or how to be. Any discipline that imposes a value judgment on a person was not for me.

02. no agenda

No moral policing is done by a stranger who is new to who you are. A stranger has no incentive to showcase ego especially in the absence of a no guilt-inducing agenda.

03. Secrets

How does a stranger keep a secret better? Strangers literally have no one to tell, and you never have to fear regretting the reveal. If your secret is out, let it stay in with a stranger.

final thought


Strangers have a knack when it comes to listening authentically. Most strangers if they strike up a conversation with you in public, do so to make the best use of their time. They do not expect anything in return that minute. They are interested in where you’ve been and what’s brought you here. The evergreen adage ‘We have 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason’ rings so true in personal relationships and professional practice. Real listening is the only way to come close to empathy and understanding another’s perspective. It is what brings peace, trust, healing and new beginnings with no condemnation or criticism and a lot less craziness.

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Mubeena is the Founder of Listen Truly, helping adults get the clarity and relief they deserve without psychotherapy. She started working as a professional listener out of her need for spiritual growth and her desire to practice non-judgment. If you would like to learn more, sign up for a free orientation session.
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