Woman standing with coffee cupIf you are grieving the loss of a loved one or a dramatic life change due to injury or disease, chances are others around you are grieving too. Knowing how to listen makes you better able to support others. Listening is a vital skill for Threads of Life’s Volunteer Family Guides – but others can learn it too. Following are some clues to good listening, from the Resource Manual for Volunteer Family Guides.

You are listening to me when you:

  • Come quietly into my private world and let me be me
  • Really try to understand me when I do not make much sense
  • Grasp my point of view even when it goes against your sincere convictions
  • Feel tired and drained after our conversation
  • Allow me to make my own decisions, and
  • Give me enough room to discover for myself why I feel upset, and enough time to think for myself what is best.

Other signs that you are listening to me are that you:

  • Do not tell me the funny story you were bursting to tell me
  • Do not take my problem from me, but trust me to deal with it in my own way
  • Resist giving me advice, and
  • Graciously receive my gratitude by telling me it is good to know you have helped.

You are not listening to me when you:

  • Say you understand before you know me well enough
  • Have an answer for my problem before I have finished telling you what the problem is
  • Interrupt me
  • Finish my sentences for me
  • Are communicating with someone else in the room, and
  • Try to sort out the details and are not aware of the feelings.

Other signs that you are not listening to me are that you:

  • Feel critical of my grammar or accent
  • Need to feel successful
  • Tell me about your experiences that make mine seem unimportant, and
  • Refuse my thanks by saying you have not really done anything.


Susan Haldane

Susan Haldane manages marketing and communications for Threads of Life.
Her background is in journalism, public relations and health and safety.
Susan Haldane