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HOW to LISTEN, When Someone needs to Talk

Updated on August 11, 2016
fpherj48 profile image

Paula has freelanced for nearly 40 years. She has a passion for her forte of Behavioral Science & continuing education in this field.

Please hear what I'm saying... 

For many of us, frustration comes easily when we feel no one truly understands us. The exasperation builds with every discussion, until we throw our hands up in disgust and walk away. You may have asked yourself, a few times, "Why do I bother to try to explain how I feel when no one really listens?"

Allow me to suggest that you resist the urge to give up. Stand your ground and trust me when I tell you that, "you," are not the problem.

The art of listening is a talent, and one that very few people possess. If you're pouring your heart out, but receiving no feedback at all, it's understandable that you become frustrated.

A LISTENER to the rescue

It should be no surprise to learn that it's simply not enough to sit across from a friend who's in emotional turmoil and shake your head now and then or pat their hand.

Please, don't get me wrong. It's wonderful you can be supportive with genuine concern, but are you transmitting vibes of empathy?. Can you be sure you're offering what someone needs?

You needn't be a Mental Health Professional during times of immediate crisis. You can learn to listen like a pro and discover the wonderful world of deeper understanding, to the benefit of others and a bonus in your own life as well.

Being trustworthy is a huge PLUS

The simple fact that people choose to divulge their innermost pain with you is a great compliment. You have obviously proven yourself to be not only empathetic but trustworthy as well. For someone to open up to you and feel free to purge without fear or apprehension, can be considered a privilege. Handle with care.

For the sake of making a point here on the importance of listening, let me suppose a friend of yours has just stopped by, wishing to share something personal and somewhat private with you. In other words, she/he feels the need to vent, if for no other reason than to get an objective opinion from your point of view. It's apparent to you that this person sitting across from you is visibly shaken and seeming anxious. This is a good time to focus your attention directly on your visitor and express a willingness to lend an ear.

Speaking of ears.....if you are confident enough in your ability to play it by ear and still give really sound and useful advice, by all means, go right ahead.

On the other hand, you may want to submit to memory, this very helpful list of suggestions on listening like a Pro.


Feeling "Connected"

The vast majority of us.... have an innate desire to give and receive comfort. That's the easy part. It's another thing to know how to offer this consolation to a friend in need.

Of all the gifts you can give someone, allowing them the opportunity of expression is at the top of the list. A big part of this is having the ability to genuinely listen. I don't mean simply using your sense of hearing.

In the midst of a sensitive situation, you may instinctively react in a typical response to squelch any tears. Not such a good idea. We're well aware of the therapeutic nature of a good cry. It may be difficult to see someone crying, but buckle up and handle it.

These Ten suggestions have been tested and given the Seal of Approval:

1.) Maintain a soothing tone of voice and ask few, if any questions.

2.) Allow your friend to give her/his version of the issues, without interruption.

3.) If & when you feel a comment is appropriate, use simple, positive terms.....e.g "I understand this upsets you and I hope I can help."

4.) Do not jump, to instinctively argue with negative statements she/he may blurt out, under duress.. Remember,emotions are raw....stay clear of anything that might seem judgmental. This is about her/him and her/his issues. It is not about what you might "think." It's just not important to analyze or offer personal opinion while someone is venting. Again, what's important is to listen.

5.) Steer her/him gently, to remain in the present and to not be sidetracked by past issues. This can only add to confusion and despair.

6.) Interject a subtle break in the rhythm, though still on topic, by suggesting a cup of tea, or a casual stroll outside....simply to create a moment to breathe or bring a shift to the level of intensity.

7.) Remember you're listening and watching.... and waiting for the moment she/he begins to feel calmer. It will be apparent to you when this is happening and she/he may be ready to welcome a two-way discussion. This is a pivotal point in the encounter.

8.) Try to help her/him avoid digression, and you might even interject a few easy-to-answer questions. Just enough to help you understand her/his dilemma further. If it seems at all appropriate, at some point, keep in mind, that mild humor is not forbidden. There are no rules against smiling during serious conversation.

9.) Do not drone on and on or take on the tone of a preacher. . Know when the time has come to begin to back away from the situation and allow more time for thought and reflection.....while remaining in attentive focus.

10.) Be positive, supportive and pleasant. Let your visitor bring the discussion to an end........and thank her/him for appreciating your advice and for their trust in you. Let her/him know you are always there, in friendship.

Not too much left at this point but a hug and wish for their resolution and repaired outlook.

You've done your best. You Listened, because you care.

Please understand that a Professional would have offered much of what you so graciously did. Go ahead, be proud of yourself and know you gave the gift of your time and your understanding. As the Law of Karma states......these gifts will be returned.

Please know that this gift of "listening." is a lasting one. The opportunity you've afforded another human being in these times of distress will be appreciated more than you can know.

Informational Video. Learn about Talk Therapy

You've earned a break. Kick back & enjoy an "Oldies" great!!

Anyone can say, "I care,"

and smile in moments of despair.

But you come bearing gifts of gold

Your heart in hand and strength untold,

to help me, guide me, friend so dear

You lend me much beyond an ear.........

Jamison-Michalek/ 2011


Submit a Comment

  • fpherj48 profile image

    Paula 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

    chillingbreeze....Sorry it's taken me 4 weeks to reply to your wonderful comment.......I may know how to LISTEN, but I guess I wasn't watching!!! LOL...Thank you for the visit....Sorry I wasn't home!

  • chillingbreeze profile image

    chillingbreeze 4 years ago from India

    Great Hub :) A great listener can be the best entrepreneur, customer support and a best networker with even a better relationship. Sometimes, giving a solution could be unrealistic, but empathy and listening can do wonders. Thanks again for a good job.


  • fpherj48 profile image

    Paula 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

    EuroCafe.......HI! Nice to meet you and thanks so much for stopping by. That screaming chick looked sooo familiar to me. Have seen that look many times. Yes...even in the mirror.

    I think it's safe to say 10 out of 10 women have been on BOTH sides of the ear at one time or another. Impossible to get through life without some venting and purging.

    Thanks so much for the Congrats, It is always a thrill to be awarded for our work. Stop again, anytime.

  • EuroCafeAuLait profile image

    Anastasia Kingsley 4 years ago from Croatia, Europe

    Hi, I really enjoyed this. I have been on both sides of the ear and your points are very well made. Congratulations on making the daily top list. I especially loved your screaming lady under the "ear"! Hilarious!

  • fpherj48 profile image

    Paula 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

    Sam.....So very true......It is a natural instinct to be floating thoughts through our brain as to "what we should or should not say NEXT"....exactly as you were told in your seminar.....and it really does take practice and focus to get beyond that and learn HOW to listen.

    Thank you for your interest.

  • TycoonSam profile image

    TycoonSam 4 years ago from Washington, MI

    Good advice. I attended a seminar on how to listen once and the speaker said that "We" as humans focus so much attention on what we want to say next, that we don't really listen. Thank you for reminding me how to listen.

  • fpherj48 profile image

    Paula 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

    Well, Thank you so much..... It is a wonderful gift to have such a friend. I'm sure you care very much about each other. Peace

  • Peanutritious profile image

    Tara Carbery 4 years ago from Cheshire, UK

    Wow! My best friend does all of these things on the list when i'm upset about something! She's brilliant! I'm lucky to have her. That is such good advice. I'm VERY impressed indeed!

  • fpherj48 profile image

    Paula 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

    Iguide.........So glad you stopped by. I appreciate your interest and comment. I think we can safely say......most of us will speak on a personal nature, only with someone we truly trust.....You are 100% is a must!!

  • iguidenetwork profile image

    iguidenetwork 4 years ago from Austin, TX

    Trust is everything, in every walks of life. When it's there, everything follows. Yes, I do believe that being trustworthy is a must in being a good listener. Thanks for sharing your tips

  • profile image

    DMVmimay 4 years ago

    listening like a pro is sometimes intriguing... keep your comment nice in a planned manner. something like that :))

  • fpherj48 profile image

    Paula 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

    Giblin Girl....Sounds to me like you've got this all well assimilated!! Good for you for being the kind of person one can depend upon in a time of need!!

  • GiblinGirl profile image

    GiblinGirl 4 years ago from New Jersey

    Great tips. Too often people feel the need to spew advice at someone who's pouring their heart out or take a "well you should have known this would happen" kind of tone when all that the person really needs is someone who understands and won't be judgmental. It's definitely important to know when to hold your tongue and just nod along with someone and when to offer a solution. Great hub!

  • fpherj48 profile image

    Paula 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

    Of course, Jaye....human nature, especially Women, the Universal "Nurturers." How flattered you can be to know people respect your opinion and trust you. It's not necessary to sit silent.....not at all. I believe we simply need to know WHEN to comment, and HOW we do this. People dealing with personal issues, as we all know, are hyper sensitive and worse......defensive!

    You may have missed this because it was shortly after I joined and really hadn't gotten around much.......Like Now, being a GAD-about!! LOL...............Thanks Jaye. I have no problem believing you are empathetic and a great listener.........In the end, advice is good...this is really why they purge to us. They would like a little help...

  • JayeWisdom profile image

    Jaye Denman 4 years ago from Deep South, USA

    How did I miss this the first time around??? This is a great hub, Paula, with concrete suggestions for developing one's listening skills.

    All through my adult life, I'm "the person" to whom friends and even acquaintances come with problems. I have plenty of empathy and caring to go around. I'm willing to listen. People are very important to me.

    However, one of the issues with which I struggle is the tendency to jump in too quickly with advice. I have to remind myself to "put the brakes on" and allow the other person to vent while I simply LISTEN actively. Of course, I'm still likely to put my Dear Abby hat on and offer advice later.... (Improvement still needed.)

    Voted Up++++ and shared.


  • fpherj48 profile image

    Paula 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

    Til...You have the right attitude. Bottom line is, when a person is confused or burdened with personal issues, it's human nature to want to jump in and give advice to try and solve their problems.However, it's so important to allow a person the opportunity to purge and have a "listener" be patient and non-judgmental. Usually, by the time someone has gotten to the point of emotional turmoil, they've had more "non-expert" advice than they can stand!

    You would be the perfect LISTENER!! Thanks, girlfriend.

  • tillsontitan profile image

    Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

    It's hard for some people to believe I am a good listener, while others seek me out...its been that way since I was a teenager and I believe its because I do what you have written here...listen and care. You're trying to "be there" for the person in need. Your advice is top notch!

    Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting. Oh, and sharing with my followers because everyone needs a good listener.

  • fpherj48 profile image

    Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

    DREAM ON....I like your user name! Nice to meet you and thanks for stopping by to comment. Yes, it is too easy to want to keep on talking and trying to "change" a situation with our words.....when in truth, it is our presence and attention that is important. Peace!

  • DREAM ON profile image

    DREAM ON 5 years ago

    I learned a lot and I am sure I will have to go back to refresh my mind from time to time.It is so easy to want to talk when we really have to listen.

  • fpherj48 profile image

    Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York've convinced me I would be a fabulous actor!........At my age, it's VERY easy to react as though I'm hearing something for the first time, even though I heard it many times before! Oh, Thank you! You're as sweet as my sons......they let me hide my own Easter eggs last year.

  • Christoph Reilly profile image

    Christoph Reilly 5 years ago from St. Louis

    Great article! A major aspect of becoming a professional actor is "listening." Actually listening to what another actor is saying and reacting properly as though you're hearing the info for the first time, not so easy since you've heard it many times before, so the tendency is for the actors to not listen, but rather instead simply prepare for their next line delivery. Unfortunately, we do this in real life too. As you so well point out, it's an important ability to listen in real life as much as in acting.

  • fpherj48 profile image

    Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

    Sharyn.....I just can't help myself.....Think I need help?? lol Thank you dear....your opinion is always wanted!

  • Sharyn's Slant profile image

    Sharon Smith 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

    This is an extremely well written article. I knew you'd throw some of that humor/sarcasm in there somewhere :) Great tips and really fun to read!


  • fpherj48 profile image

    Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

    carolyn....thank you very much for such nice comments. Although education and/or professional training allows some of us an I said in my hub, this is a gift that comes from the heart, with patience, concern and intuition stirred in as it simmers on and "even" heat. I'm sure you are an excellent LISTENER!

  • carolyn a. ridge profile image

    carolyn a. ridge 5 years ago

    This is an excellent hub? Have you received professional training in this subject? It sounds like you have! I love your advice for "assessing the situation, and keeping the waters calm". I consider myself a good listener. When you listen to someone's story, you hear not only what is being said, but also, what is NOT being said. voted up !!

  • Shil1978 profile image

    Shil1978 5 years ago

    You got that right, fpherj48! Yes, I am a good listener, but you are better :) The pleasure was mine - I truly did love reading this hub and have in fact bookmarked it so I can read it again - there's much to learn from this wonderful hub of yours, well done :)

  • fpherj48 profile image

    Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

    shil1978....Thanks so much for stopping by and showing interest in this hub...I truly appreciate your comments. You have great insight on this topic. I'm guessing you're a superb LISTENER!

  • fpherj48 profile image

    Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

    Cogerson....Absolutely! No.#1 person to listen to, smile and answer correctly: The WIFE. "Movies & Actors" isn't the only thing you know!! You may now proceed to the next level.....Pop Quiz on Friday!

  • Shil1978 profile image

    Shil1978 5 years ago

    Wonderful hub, fpherj48. Couldn't agree more. The ability to listen and listen the way you should (as you rightly point out) is a gift that a few possess, naturally. For others, it is an art that they'd do well to learn. Your hub is a good guide on how to. I love the way you have demonstrated this with an example. Thanks for sharing this gem of a hub :)

  • Cogerson profile image

    Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

    The number one key to being a great communicator is being a great listener....awesome tips and suggestions on how to improve and master your listening also can help keep the wife happy by having solid listening

  • fpherj48 profile image

    Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

    I listen....and I hear you, Dexter..."a man's version of these events."....OK, don't be shy, my MAN-friend...provide me with your version!! I'm waiting...C'mon're the best, I know it will be awesome!!

  • Dexter Yarbrough profile image

    Dexter Yarbrough 5 years ago from United States

    Hi Fpherj28! Great hub. People don't listen often enough. They just want to talk. More people need to learn how to become active listeners.

    Great advice! It would be great if you could truly provide a man's version of these events! Voted up, up and away!

  • fpherj48 profile image

    Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

    Thank you anupma!! Passive listeners? you parents when their children are chattering constantly in their ear until MOM wants to she shakes her head and smiles and LOOKS like she's actually LISTENING???? hahahahahah.

  • anupma profile image

    Dr Anupma Srivastava 5 years ago from India

    Listening is a skill. It can be developed. One must be an active listener. Passive listeners are not respectable anywhere. Nice and suggestive hub.

  • fpherj48 profile image

    Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

    Thank you Martie...I can't imagine you would be anything but the perfect person for friends to go to for solace and advice. I can clearly see why they do this. OH, Judge she not a total HOOT?? I love the woman. The way she verbally slaps around some of the Morons that come before her....CRACKS me up!!!

  • MartieCoetser profile image

    Martie Coetser 5 years ago from South Africa

    I have so much – too much – empathy with others. But I am not, like my mother, a good listener. While the speaker needs to hear him/herself talk, in order to rearrange his flying thoughts and concepts in such a way that it is more consumable, I detect his/her problem too quickly and bombard him/her with advise – while there is not room in his mind for that. Beside this I get easily irritated with a person who keeps on moaning about the same thing – I believe one should talk less about his problems and do more about it. There is always a solution, most of the time more than one, so it is a matter of making a choice and put it into practise without delay.

    But still my friends come to me, loading me with their problems. Even my children keep on appointing me as the chairperson of their serious meetings. I never judge, always make sure their thoughts and feelings are properly worded and understood, and they do appreciate my advice and even practise it with success until.....

    They call me Judge Judy.

    The art of listening is indeed a talent!

    What a brilliant phrase: “.... he is standing there, like a deer in headlights.”

    This is a fantastic hub with great advice. Bookmarked and printed. I believe one should never stop trying to improve his/her skills and talents.

  • fpherj48 profile image

    Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

    kimh039.....YES...YES... you were already following me. I received the notice on my home page....strange, because I think the system would auto-inform you that you are following me, were you to hit FOLLow again.....which you did....which means you're following me from not one, but 2 directions.....if you do that's STALKING or we have to exchange friendship bracelets...or I need to hire a bodyguard..or we need to be a bit more private about this affair........OH and about your boss? My guess is she has "selective" hearing....and has ulterior motives for claiming she doesn't understand you...Of course I am not cynical. Don't be silly

  • kimh039 profile image

    Kim Harris 5 years ago

    I agree. Listening is the single most important skill a person can learn! And you're right that not being heard in spite of efforts to make yourself clear is aggravating. I'm having that experience with a new boss who not only isn't hearing what I'm saying. She is not understanding what she is hearing. Arghh. Thanks for the validation and a very well written hub, fpherj48.

  • fpherj48 profile image

    Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

    eye say....YOU said it!! Thanks for the comment. Always appreciate the interest and input. I hope MORE people do read this. Maybe the concept will catch on?

    unique.....I hear you, friend! Share can only help! Thanks so much for stopping by and come again!

  • uniquearticlesbuz profile image

    uniquearticlesbuz 5 years ago from USA

    Nice hub and glad to read it now time to share with my network.........:))

  • eye say profile image

    eye say 5 years ago from Canada

    great read and a worthwhile subject, voted up cause more people need to read this!

  • fpherj48 profile image

    Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

    Sunshine...I have no doubt you're a great listener...and believe me, NO ONE should encourage repeated "DRAMA." We can't reward immaturity. There are PLENTY of NON-listeners....and they're easy to spot!! No one is talking to them!!!! lol Thanks Linda Sue!

  • fpherj48 profile image

    Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

    missolive....oh please, I hope and pray our world does not spin into the depths of apathy!! What an ugly place it will be to exist. Things look bleak and dim, but with masses of people who have heart and soul, working to turn this around....I have hope. One person, one act of kindness at a time....over and over! Thanks for visiting!

  • Sunshine625 profile image

    Linda Bilyeu 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

    Huh? Did you say something? Haha! Outstanding effer!!! I guarantee there are many people who could learn a thing or two or three from this hub! I believe I'm a good listener except when it comes to repetitive drama, I lack patience in that department. You got my votes across the board and I'm sharing this for sure!!

  • missolive profile image

    Marisa Hammond Olivares 5 years ago from Texas

    Great job! This topic is very important. I fear our world is becoming apathetic, but I am hopeful that we are not. This hub offers great tips and offers a good perspective. I'm with Rebecca - the squirrels are too cute! :)

    Voted up as well

  • fpherj48 profile image

    Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

    Thank you rebecca!! Always happy to hear from a new visitor. I appreciate your comment and vote! Pls stop by again anytime. Yes, the squirrels are cute, aren't they? I couldn't resist

  • rebeccamealey profile image

    Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

    Deep and thought provoking. Nicely done I vote UP and AWESOME for this great Hub!Love the squirrel picture, all your illustrations really look good.