- Forget yourself: put your own thoughts to one side and concentrate on what the other person is really saying.
- Keep up a steady eye contact.
- Nod and make encouraging noises to show you're listening.
- Ask questions that will help the other person to open up about their feelings, such as: 'when did that happen to you?' or 'how did that make your feel?'
- Try to empathise by saying 'that must have felt horrible' or 'you sound really angry about that'.
- Make sure you ask them to explain if you haven't understood, with questions such as 'so, why did you go back to the supermarket?'.
- Set a time limit to how long your're available to listen, otherwise you may end up switching off out of sheer exhaustion. Try saying something like 'I can listen until three o'clock, but then I really do have to go and pick the children up from school'.
- say 'that happened to me too', and start talking about yourself.
- interrupt. It shows that you're more interested in getting your own point across rather than listening.
- offer your advice or opinion. Even if you think the talker has got it completely wrong, it's not helpful for you to say so.
- halt the conversation in mid-flow by getting up to make a cup of tea, or changing the subject abruptly.
- rush to fill in any silences with humour or pointless chat. Be sympathetic.
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