Talk To Us is the annual awareness– raising campaign from the Samaritans. The Samaritans are challenging the UK to become better listeners by sharing tips on how to improve your listening skills.
Show you care
To really listen to someone, you need to give them your full attention, maintain eye contact and be engaged. Getting into the habit takes practice but these tips may be useful:
· When starting the conversation resolve not to talk about yourself at all
· Keep a listening diary for one week. Record how many times you listened really well, note any challenges and what distracts you as well as what went well
· Aim to learn at least one new thing about the person who is talking to you
Time is key when listening to someone. The person sharing shouldn’t feel rushed. If they have paused, wait. They may not have finished speaking and remember it might take them some time to formulate what they are saying. They trust you to listen and not to judge, and you trust them to try and describe their feelings. All conversations are open to interpretation and through non-judgemental listening, you are allowing the person to relax and use the conversation as a place to reflect or work through difficult emotions.
Use open questions
An open ended question means not jumping in with your own ideas about how the other person may be feeling. These questions are objective and require a person to pause, think and reflect and then hopefully expand. Avoid asking questions or saying something which closes down the conversation. Open-ended questions encourage the other person to talk, the conversation is a safe space that you are holding for them and nothing they say is right or wrong.
Say it back
Repeating something back to somebody is a good way to reassure them that they have your attention and you can check to see that you’re hearing what they want you to hear, not putting your own interpretation on the conversation. Check you’ve understood, but don’t interrupt or offer a solution.
It can feel intrusive and counter intuitive to ask someone how they feel. You’ll soon see if someone is uncomfortable and doesn’t want to engage with you at that level. You will be surprised at how willing people are to listen and how sometimes, it’s exactly what somebody needs to be able to share what is going on in their mind.