How to be a good listener: the experts' guide

Step one: stop talking. From that friend in need to your nightmare colleague, here’s how to hear and make a difference

A close friend was going through a terrible time this summer. As she cried to me on the phone in her lunch break or over coffee at the weekend, I tried to be the best friend I could. I told her to focus on the friends and partner who love her, suggested therapy and exercise to alleviate her stress, and gave her advice as to what she might say and do to change her situation.

I’ve always prided myself on being a good listener. Maybe I’ve got one of those faces: partners, friends, colleagues, even strangers at the bus stop seem to want to confide in me. This year I started volunteering for a charity that provides fortnightly face-to-face, confidential listening sessions for people. I liked the idea that lay people such as myself could be trained, with professional support, to use our compassion and ears to help a fellow human being in distress.

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