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
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