The Art of Visiting
June 1980

“The Art of Visiting,” Ensign, June 1980, 51

The Art of Visiting

One day I was asked to sit with a friend who was recuperating from a long, serious illness. I arrived carrying my work basket jammed with mending, a folder of material on a PTA project, and some patterns to cut out for Relief Society.

I was greeted at the door by the Relief Society president of my friend, Elizabeth, who explained that Elizabeth needed no special bedside care; my responsibility was to visit with her. As I started toward the bedroom, basket in hand, the Relief Society president gently took my arm and said, smiling, “You do know how to visit, don’t you?”

My puzzled expression must have answered her question for she asked, “May I give you some ideas on visiting?” I nodded.

She then said, “First, when you are visiting for a short time, try to leave your busy work at home, unless, of course, it is really urgent. Bringing work with you might tell Elizabeth that you are so busy you really should have stayed home. If, on the other hand, you walk in empty-handed, you are telling her that visiting with her is the most important thing you could possibly do during your stay. It says that you are here to enjoy her company, and you’re doing it by choice.

“Second, your visit is more important than any well-prepared food you might carry. A casserole without companionship does not taste very good; the hunger for friendship is as important as the need for good food. Of course, it’s best to try to satisfy both appetites.

“Third, be careful not to upstage the stories of your friend while you are together. I fear that many of us unconsciously do just that. If Elizabeth tells you she is planning an exciting weekend thirty miles from home, don’t tell her you are going surfing in Hawaii. If her complicated surgery took a team of twelve specialists, don’t tell her about your exotic acupuncture. If she exclaims about her daughter who just had twins, don’t tell her that your cat had a litter of nine. Let her recount, relive, and relish her memories without any competition.

“Fourth, respond to her conversation. Respond, but do not judge or assess her thoughts or ideas. Verbally show her that you care about the conversation. It’s certainly supportive to say to a companion, ‘Oh, yes! Really? Hmmmmmm. For goodness sake, is that right? Uh Huh. Well!’ Even when you simply respond with ‘Oh,’ you are constantly reminding her by the tone of your voice that you are listening to her stories.

“That’s all it takes,” she concluded. “Visiting is really listening. Have a nice visit. There is therapy there for both of you!”

What a great lesson I learned that day!—Evalyn D. Bennett, Salt Lake City, Utah