Just being there for someone and offering a listening ear can make a difference to someone who is going through a tough time.
Active or effective listening involves really trying to understand what the other person is saying, without imposing our own expectations or judgements, and demonstrating that we understand.
Show them that you care and are here to listen to them.
This means you provide your full focus on them by putting away your phone, clearing your mind of other thoughts than can distract you and be engaged by encouraging them to talk through nodding and making eye contact.
Have patience, let others talk and don’t judge.
Many people need time to feel safe and comfortable to be ready to open-up and talk. It may take you several attempts but time is the key when listening to someone.
Remember, if a person pauses during their response, they may not have finished talking and are finding it difficult to articulate how they are feeling.
Effective listening involves the other person trusting you not to judge while they work through difficult thoughts and emotions. Remember to let them continue in their own time without interrupting.
These questions require more than a yes/no answer e.g. how are you feeling today, tell me more about it etc.
Repeating what was said to you back in your own words provides the speaker with confidence and reassurance that you’re listening and hearing what they are wanting you to hear. Try saying, ‘I can see you are upset about…’ or ‘so it sounds like you’re feeling…’.
Keep calm and accept that they may disagree with you.
Don’t be put off by a negative response and don’t feel that you have to fill a silence. Acknowledge different points of view, as what works for some may not always work for others. Try saying, ‘I acknowledge this is how you may feel but have you considered….'
Yourmentalhealth.ie [Internet]. Ireland: Health Service Executive, the National Office for Suicide Prevention and partners; c2017. Tips on being a good listener [cited 2017 Oct 25]. Available from: http://www.yourmentalhealth.ie/mind-yourself/concerned/worried-about-someone/listen/
Regional Mens Health [Internet]. Northam, WA (Australia): Wheatbelt Men's Health inc [cited 2017 Oct 27]. Available from: http://regionalmenshealth.org.au/news/117-effective-listening-warriors-wellbeing
REACHOUT.com [Internet]. New South Wales (Australia): ReachOut Australia; c2017. 3 steps to better communication [cited 2017 Nov 17]. Available from: https://au.reachout.com/articles/3-steps-to-better-communication