Active Listening is the act of fully understanding and comprehending what someone is saying. This is a skill that is absolutely crucial to have as a compassionate member of society. Here are some quick, actionable ways that you can use active listening to be a better listener right now:
- Avoid getting distracted by thoughts.
- Focus on speaker and topic instead.
- Try not to interrupt the other person.
- Let them finish and then respond.
- Use door openers. Phrases that show you’re interested and keep the other person talking. That’s interesting, go on, etc.
- Show that you’re listening with body language. Paraphrase what others have said. Start those sentences with: “What I’m hearing you say is” or “I’m understanding that you”
At Crisis Text Line, we are taught about the two stages of an effective crisis conversation. These two steps stages can be easily applicable to a conversation with a peer who is undergoing mental distress.
Step 1 is to explore the precipitating event. You can uncover what is causing the person to be in distress by using some of the active listening tips we talked about earlier. Here you can determine the person’s level of risk and validate their feelings.
Step 2 is to collaboratively problem solve. This empowers the person in crisis, develops their self-efficacy, and puts them in the driver’s seat to identify coping skills and a safety plan.
Everyone has the ability to become a more compassionate listener. It just requires the listener to play a more active role in the conversation. I’m certain that you’ll find it to be so much easier to make a difference in someone’s life by having an impactful conversation.