Let them know you're listening and give them your full attention.
Listening is more than just hearing someone. Being a good listener requires focus. Everyone needs the ear of someone they can trust, and to feel like they’re being heard and understood when they speak. Listen to understand rather than listening to respond.
Be a sounding board
Sometimes, people just need to get things off their chest. Good listening starts with providing a sounding board, or a place to bounce ideas off. This means avoiding assumptions, judgement, and the temptation to provide answers while they vent to you.
Use clarifying questions
If you need to better understand something they’ve said, it’s OK to ask more questions for clarification.
Help them talk about how they’re feeling.
‘I imagine you’re feeling pretty upset right now?’
Normalise their reaction.
‘It’s understandable that you’re feeling this way’. ‘I think most people in this situation would feel the same way as you are right now’.
Avoid dismissing their thoughts or feelings (e.g. avoid saying, ‘that’s not worth getting angry about’ or ‘why would you get angry about that?’)
You can use questions like:
- What do you mean by...
- Can you tell me a bit more about...
- Can you give me an example of…
- What was that like for you?
- Are you saying...
- Do you feel...
- Do you mean...
Golden tips for good listening
- Focus on their body language and speech (tone, rate and volume). Do they seem open? Anxious? Both? Are they raising their voice and appearing agitated/irritable? Listen to what they’re saying beyond their words. It’ll guide you on how to move forward and could provide some vital clues. Are they making eye contact? Are they turned towards you or away? Do they seem physically uncomfortable?
- Give your full attention. Put down your phone, turn off the TV and choose a place with no distractions or as few as possible. It shows respect and that you’ve made this a priority.
- Take what’s being said seriously. If a man says he’s ‘stressed’ or ‘feeling low’, accept it.
- Don’t attempt to provide reasons why he shouldn’t feel exactly how he feels. This is not helpful.
- Listen and offer support. Let them know they don’t have to go through this alone and that you’re there for them.
- Reflect back what the man has said -‘it seems that/it sounds like/I get the impression that…’‘It sounds like he really upset you’.
- Summarise the situation ‘it seems as though you felt that decision was unfair...I get the sense that you’re pretty frustrated and would have liked to have kept your job’. Provide validation statements e.g.“I can tell this is really worrying you”. Validation shows that you hear and are empathetic to the issue and acknowledges the man’s thoughts and feelings.
- Avoid interrupting or rushing the conversation.
- Allow for silence even though it might feel awkward at times.
- Accept and acknowledge emotional responses.
- Be patient...some people need time/space before they are ready to accept help. You can be honest about why you are worried and let them know you are there for them. If the man is not ready to talk, you can check in on him again at a later time.
- The main point is to ensure that the man knows that they are cared for and that they can reach out for support whenever they are feeling down etc.