Often being listened to is enough to help someone through a time of distress. Even just showing that you are there for them and that you recognise they are going through a distressing time, can in itself be a comfort.
Listening – really listening – is not easy. We must control the urge to say something – to make a comment, add to a story or offer advice. We need to listen not just to the facts that the person is telling us but to the feelings that lie behind them. We need to understand things from their perspective, not ours.
It is important for people to have the opportunity to explore difficult feelings. Being listened to in confidence, and accepted without prejudice, can alleviate general distress, despair and suicidal feelings. Before people who feel suicidal can begin to explore solutions, they need a safe place to express their fears and anxieties, to be themselves.
Are you a good listener?
- Always try to give people your undivided attention?
- Let them sit in silence and collect their thoughts if they need to?
- Question them gently, tactfully and without intruding?
- Encourage them to tell their story in their own words and in their own time?
- Always try and see their point of view even though you may not agree with it?
… these can help show someone that you are really listening to them
or do you:
- Look around the room or glance at your watch while they are talking?
- Finish their sentences for them and correct their grammar?
- Interrupt to tell them how you once had a similar problem?
- Make a snap judgement based on their accent, dress or personal appearance?
- Tell them what you would do in their position?
- Say you understand before you’ve heard what their problem is?
… but these can give the impression that you are not listening