Sometimes, we can be terrible listeners. When friends come to us for advice, we often reply by trying to fix their problems or offer our own personal experience of the situation. I recently started volunteering on an online support forum for mental health. You start by having a short course in how to be a better listener – then you get thrown in the deep end!
The main thing that you learn is how to actively listen to people. Active and reflective listening involves truly hearing and understand what the person that you’re speaking to has said, and then working with them to explore that more. This is contrasted to simply putting across your own opinion or thinking about the next story that you can say.
This skill is why counsellors and other mental health support people are so valuable. They allow you to explore your own feelings and emotions by actively listening.
Since finding out how we can be pretty terrible listeners I’ve really tried to become a bit better in life. It can be easy to slip back into the habit of waiting for the next time that you can speak but it allows for much better conversations when someone can really explore what they are thinking about.
Since starting Spill I’ve learn more than I could imagine about mental health. Because the subject has been taboo for so long, the skills that are used haven’t been valued as highly as they could be. We’re on a mission to normalise talking therapy so that everyone can have someone to talk to. Learning to be better listeners is definitely a part of that journey!