We can all think of situations where we found it hard to talk about something that was troubling us.
These can include difficult, painful or embarrassing situations which we find almost impossible to speak to open up about. Imagine you’ve got a close friend who needs to get something difficult off their chest. How do you get them to open up?
Active listening is approach we can take to help people talk through their problems, no matter how difficult they find it to articulate those worries.
It sounds a strange idea. We assume that when we listen, we don’t actually do anything. Well, not necessarily.
Nobody expects you to know the answers. Not knowing the answers doesn’t mean you’re not helping. You can offer real support simply by being an active listener.
With active listening, although you do some talking, you’re really just acting as a sounding board. What you say doesn’t influence what the other person has to say. It just helps them to talk. All too often, we say things which bring conversations to a halt, like "I know just how you feel" or "Try not to worry about it." Although they’re meant well, they don’t encourage the other person to continue the conversation. Instead, they tend to wrap up what the other person is saying. With active listening, you can avoid this.
How to be an active listener:
All of this sounds quite simple. And it is. All you’re doing is listening, and from time to time giving responses which encourage the other person, crucially, to keep talking.