Talk to Us Month: Becoming a Better Listener

Every year in July, the charity Samaritans hold local events to raise awareness that Samaritans are here to listen to anyone who’s struggling to cope, at any time of the day or night. This is known as the Talk To Us Month, and there are plenty of ways we can all get involved. Today we’re going to be exploring how we can be better listeners so that we really hear how others are feeling.

Becoming a better listener can help you support loved ones who may be struggling. It can also help improve your relationships with family, friends, and colleagues. You could help your friends, colleagues and loved ones open up about how they’re feeling by making some small changes to the way you listen. Check out our top tips below to become a better listener…

  1. Listen without being distracted Try making eye contact, putting your phone away and focusing completely on the other person. If you’re talking to someone on the phone, try doing it in a quiet place so that you’re less distracted by what’s going on around you.
  2. Listen without interrupting Try and remember that pauses are fine, you don’t need to jump in and fill a silence. Resist putting your own interpretation on what the other person is saying, and repeat back what they say so it shows you’re listening. Silences allow people to think and gain insight about whatever is being discussed. It gives us a moment to digest new information and consider how it makes us feel, and it also gives us a chance to consider what to say next and questions to ask.
  3. Ask open-ended questions Open-ended questions (which require more than a ‘yes / no’ response) are a great way to encourage others to open up about what they are thinking or how they are feeling. Here are some examples you could ask:

‘How long have you been feeling like this? ‘

‘What do you think might have caused you to feel this way? ‘

‘What can I do to help/make you feel supported? ‘

  1. Talk Less, Listen More One of the most important parts of becoming a better listener is to be present in the conversation. Focus on the now, listen to what they’re sharing and be willing to engage. For many of us, staying present in a conversation is hard, but we may not realise it. One of the most common difficulties with being present is that people keep thinking of what to say next. You will listen to the first part of what the person is sharing, then the rest of your mind is busy thinking about what you should say when they’re finished. Or they share a personal problem with you and you immediately begin trying to think of a solution. It’s easy to assume that what you say and contribute during a conversation is the most important, but that’s not the case. Sometimes the most meaningful part of a conversation is letting the other person share and be heard. Remember, it’s not about you.
  2. Check in on loved ones Why not try adding reminders to your calendar or phone, to check in with loved ones once or twice a week. Don’t give up, sometimes it can take a few tries to get someone to open up about how they’re feeling.

Validate Them for Being Vulnerable

Opening up to someone else is hard. It takes a lot to be vulnerable to another person; as we know but often need reminding of, sharing your feelings isn’t weak – it’s one of the bravest things a person can do. So let the other person know that. Thank them for opening up and show appreciation that the person you’re talking to trusts you. This small act of acknowledging the other person’s vulnerability can open the door to future conversations.

If you need to talk to someone, you can call Samaritans at any time by calling 116 123.

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