I Did Not Know What To Say Blog

The Gift of Listening

Posted by ididnotknowwhattosay on July 26, 2009

After the loss of a loved one, there is nothing more important you can do for a friend than being a good listener.  Listen to their grief, their fears, their stories, their joy and all the emotions that come with grieving over the loss of a loved one.

But what does it take to be a good listener?

To truly master the art of listening one must approach each situation with an open heart and mind.  Each relationship and situation is unique and requires us to find that place within our hearts to open up and allow another person to fully express themselves. 

Often we are in a hurry to get to the next appointment, anxious to speak our own view point or have too many “other’ things on our mind that we fail to pay attention to the person right in front of us.  We must overcome our natural desire to be the one talking and just allow the other person the opportunity to freely express their emotions without interruption.  Sounds easy enough… so why is it so difficult? 

Why is listening so hard?

  • When it comes to grief, it may be difficult to hear the sadness your loved one is going through
  • You may be drawn to try to “fix” their grief instead of allowing them the space to naturally go through the normal stages of healing
  • It is often difficult to give up our own beliefs and opinions on how “grief” should be expressed
  • Life can be hectic and it is difficult at times to focus our attention on one person
  • Some times we are just too tired to listen 

Tips on becoming a better listener…

  • Focus your attention on the person – not on the million other things that you could be doing.  And yes, turn off your cell phone!
  • Allow the person to express their feelings without interruption
  • Be willing to make a connection and have an open heart
  • Body language – observe facial expressions, tone of voice, eye contact, and hand gestures – is their body language congruent with what they are saying?
  • Listen to both the Facts and the Feelings in what the person is saying
  • Use open-ended questions that allow the person to express their feelings rather than questions that lead to a yes or no answer. “How does that make you feel? Can you say a little more about what upset you?
  • In your own words, paraphrase what the person has said to you to ensure that you understand.  Be genuine and avoid sounding “clinical” or impersonal.
  • Listen to how things are being said and what is not being said
  • Own and express your personal feelings by using “I” statements
  • Listen to your intuition.  What is your inner voice telling you?
  • Be honest.  If you are not in a place that you feel you can listen, let your friend know that you love them but at that moment you are not able to fully be there for them.  Try to make plans to meet with them at another time when you feel you are able to make a connection and are free from other distractions.

Allowing a loved one the space to freely express their feelings at a time of great loss can be very therapeutic and can assist them in restoring balance in their life.  

Never underestimate the value of being a good listener.

© 2009 Lori Pederson
WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR E-ZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it:  Lori Pederson, Founder of I Did Not Know What To Say, a website built to inspire and to provide you with tools to assist a love one through the grieving process.   If you would like our free newsletter on how to assist your friends and family members through the journey of restoring balance in their life after the death of a love one, please visit our website at www.ididnotknowwhattosay.com.

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