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Listening

Someone listening to you can really help if you've got things on your mind. It can help you feel more contained about your worries, so you can think calmly, rationally and come up with solutions. It restores your ability to think clearly about the whole situation.
  1. Good listening is about finding the right time. If your friend is very distressed you may have to make time for them there and then. But it's OK to tell them if it just doesn't fit into your day. Offer to meet them another time, so you can give them your full attention. You need to look after yourself, as well as supporting your friend.

  2. Always be clear with each other about what you can and can't do.

  3. Listen, listen, listen. It can be hard to just listen, but that's exactly what your friend needs. By giving them the space to tell you their concerns you're helping them reflect on their situation. It can help them make sense of it. Let them talk and acknowedge what they're saying and how they're feeling. Don't try and dash in with reassurance or solutions; that can come later. By letting them talk you're helping them to understand things better and find their own solution. You're also helping your friend feel less ashamed about their worries and more able to talk to others about them, which may lead them to get professional help, if they feel they need it.

  4. Acknowledge, acknowledge, acknowledge. Listen to what your friend's saying and let them know you've heard how they're feeling or thinking by simply stating what you think you've heard. So, for example, you might say: 'That sounds really upsetting.' or 'You must be feeling really confused.' or 'It sounds like you don't know what to do'. It's can be surprisingly helpful to feel someone's connected with what you're saying and they understand how you're feeling. This on its own can actually help reduce the stress.

  5. Can you bear to listen? It can really help your friend to feel calmer if they can talk to you about their worries. For you this means you're connecting with what your friend is saying and you're not overwhelmed by it. Sometimes, if what we're hearing is upsetting we start to defend ourselves by not really listening or connecting with what the person's saying. Or we may feel very upset and disturbed by it. Notice how you're feeling when you listen to your friend's concerns and see if you can bear to listen. If not, it's OK, but try and recognise it so you can give your friend honest feedback and let them know you can be there for them in other ways, but that they'll need to find someone else to talk to on this one.

  6. Acknowledge the courage it's taken to talk to you 

  7. Don't expect them to tell you everything about the experience to prove that what they are saying is true. Let them talk about it at their own pace.

  8. Encourage them to seek support, but don't pressure them unless you're worried they are not safe.

  9. Look after yourself. Don't put pressure on yourself thinking you must come up with solutions for your friend's complex issues. Trust your intuition if you don't think you're the right person to help your friend, that's OK. Let your friend know if you don't think you can help them now. Let them know if you think they need to talk to someone who has more experience with this issue or to a trusted adult.

  10. Recognise if you're stuck. Hopefully by giving your friend time they'll begin to feel more contained and able to come up with solutions. If you think they've already taken a lot of your time but you just seem to be going round in circles, gently let them know that's how it feels and try and work out what else they need to help them move things along.

  11. Keep it confidential.  Let your friend know who you want to share the information with and who you won't share it with. It's not a good idea to talk to other friends in your group about what your friend has shared with you. But you may need to talk it through with someone to check out any concerns you have. If you're worried about your friend's safety, you do need to let an adult know.

  12.  If you are worried and don't know what to do to help your friend talk to a trusted adult.

Listening...