11 Keys to Being a Skilled Listener & Why it Matters More than Ever

By Geordie Bull

There’s been a wonderful surge in messaging around mental health over the last few years and, more than ever, mothers who are suffering from PND and other mental health issues are encouraged to reach out and speak up. 

But what happens when you bravely bare your soul only to find that no one is listening properly? That when you venture out of your shell to tell your mother, husband or trusted friend that you’re feeling low, you wind up on the receiving end of a lecture? What happens when you share your inner struggles and end up feeling worse than you did before – judged, pitied or misunderstood? 

The current mental health epidemic is matched by a silent issue: the widespread inability of people to listen deeply or hold space for others.

And there’s a reason for this. 

Listening deeply and holding space for someone who is suffering is a hard thing to do. To be a skilled listener you must first learn to listen to yourself. You need the skills of active listening, the willpower to hold back from giving advice and the strength to walk beside another and hold space for them as they dive into the dark, trusting that they will find their way home. You hold a candle for them but you don’t show them the way. You acknowledge their pain, but you don’t try to take it from them. 

If you can do this, you will give your loved ones – especially your children – one of the greatest gifts available. Today is the perfect day to begin. 

Keys to practise being a skilled listener  

  • Set an intention to listen more than you speak. Notice how this feels in your body. 
  • Reflect what the person is saying back to them, rather than dipping into your own story. 
  • Adopt a curious mindset. Instead of judging according to your model of the world, why not grow curious about someone else’s? 
  • Ask people directly what they need and how you can help them. Often, they will say that they just want to talk to someone.
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