Situations that we deal with on an everyday basis are complicated. Very few are black and white. All the more so when we are trying to be supportive of someone who is grieving. If we don’t take time to really understand and listen to what they are saying or how they experience things, it will be difficult to truly be of support. There are very few pat solutions that one can simply apply, especially considering the uniqueness of a person’s grief journey. Listed below are a few keys to being a good listener which can help whether your supporting someone in grief or just being a good friend.
Warmth and Caring — being concerned, accepting, and friendly.
Empathy — trying to understand how it feels to be in someone else’s shoes and showing that you want to understand
Non-judgmental Acceptance — not being shocked or judging someone. Accepting the person and their feelings. Respect allowing someone the dignity of having the right to feel any emotion and the free choice to choose any action.
Genuineness — being real, not just someone “playing” a role.
Talking — you can’t talk and listen at the same time.
Clarifying — if you don’t understand something, or feel you may have missed a point, clear it up by asking a relevant question.
Summarizing — periodically check back with the person that you have heard them correctly by summarizing the main points of what has been said.
Questions — always use open-ended questions, i.e. questions which cannot be answered by just “yes” or “no”. Be careful not to interrogate.
Don’t interrupt — a pause, even a long pause, doesn’t mean the person has finished saying everything they want to say.
Turn Off Your Own Words — personal fears, worries, problems not connected with the person easily distract from what they are saying.
Listen for Feelings – don’t just concentrate on the facts as these are often less important than the feelings.
Don’t Assume or Jump to conclusions — don’t complete sentences for the person either verbally or in your mind.
Listen for Overtones — you can learn a great deal from the way the person says things and what they do not say.
Concentrate/Attention — focus your mind on what the person is saying. Practice shutting out distractions.