The delicate art of listening

I wrote earlier in the week about my frustration at the huge focus on talking and the lack of emphasis on listening. Now don’t get me wrong talking is so so important but I feel that it leaves too much responsibility on the person who might be going through a tough time or is suicidal. This responsibility can sometimes be a lot and neglects to emphasize how important listening is, and how you can talk all you want but if you have not got a good listener available to you, things can be extremely difficult.

A lot of people may be intimidated at the thought of listening to someone who is going through a tough time as they are afraid that they might say the wrong thing. The first thing is to not be afraid, most of the time you will have to say very little as your job as a listener is not to talk but instead to provide a space for the person to do the talking. 

I truly believe that if we had more people consciously listening to others in distress not only would we have a lower suicide rate, but we would have a healthier nation. A good listener not only hears what is said but also hears what is not said. I definitely think there is space for a mental health campaign that focuses on the art of listening, instead of just always focusing on talking.

Some tips on how to listen well:

  • Allow yourself to listen with an open heart with no judgement.
  • Don’t be afraid of a little silence as it is often all is needed for the person to open up and speak about what is going on for them openly. 
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you need to, but remember that your job is to listen and not to talk.
  • Pay attention to body language as it can reveal a lot about how the person is feeling. 

I have put together a little mnemonic to remind people how important it is to talk but also to listen.

 Remember TALK which stands for Time, Ask, Listen, and Keep trying.

T (TIME) Make the time to speak to someone you are concerned about.

A (ASK) Ask them how they are and what you can do to support them during this tough time. Don’t be afraid to ask if they are suicidal if you feel they might be.

L (LISTEN) It’s important to practice active listening during this time and this means paying close attention to them by keeping eye contact, listening to what they have to say without interrupting them or showing any judgement.

K (KEEP TRYING) it may take the person a while to trust you enough to speak openly. This is perfectly normal so don’t let this put you off. Keep trying!

So… What do you think? Is there space for a campaign on listening?  What listening tips would you give? Leave a comment below.

7 thoughts on “The delicate art of listening

  1. Lisa O'Reilly April 4, 2015 / 10:28 pm

    really interesting article, well written and something that should be addressed more


  2. Simon August 5, 2015 / 12:50 pm

    Completely Agree. I have a partner who really needs to talk but is effectively criticising everything I do or say. Some of it is vali, but a lot of it is unfair or downright untrue. I have no idea how to cope with this. Some good solid listening advice would change both our lives.


  3. Jo January 2, 2017 / 5:59 am

    Listen jumbled up can spell silent. When your truly listening you are not ready to jump in with an answer and in any case the the person speaking may not want an answer. But when a person listens its difficult to cut off emotions of concern and therefore they maybe compelled to offer suggestions to the person in difficulty. Emoting (letting go of emotions) is important and that maybe required here is a listener. But some times the speaker needs more and yet may not think so. In other words if the speaker has not experienced the listener suggestion they may overlook it as perhaps they are not in a good space mentally to take it one. Change is hard and contributes greatly to stress which of course is another good reason that the person in difficulty may overlook an important suggestion. But generally when a person is distressed they are more likely to be more open minded to change as its obvious that something is not working. Here speaker maybe unable to fully listen themselves. Of course, at this point being heard is good for the speaker. But when the speaker has said their piece what have they learned? Therefore, revisiting the conversation with an open mind; to gain insight into the deeper levels of the problem seen from another perspective can be a good habit to form. Not all suggestion will be justified but this can only be examined when emotions have settled. Just as emoting is important for your mental health it is also important where possible to change any destruction learned behaviour and challenge your own thinking so as to reach a better understanding ones self on all levels. Quote: If you want an answer don’t keep asking until you get the one you want, be open minded. Thanks : )


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