This is a time for compassion and empathy. As we go back into local lockdowns and the rate of infection increases, anxiety is also rising. Getting through the day can be hard enough for some. 
We are calling on you to take notice, listen, and comfort others without trying to fix, analyse or explain, or change the topic back to yourself. 
How to actively listen

How to be a "heart with ears" 

Being a “heart with ears” means being in the present moment and listening with care and patience, without offering judgement, analysis, or criticism. Instead of knowing “exactly how they feel,” you can acknowledge their feelings by saying things such as “It sounds like you’ve had a really hard time.” 
Offering your full attention and a listening ear provides your friend, colleague, or relative the best support and comfort you could give – the chance for them to speak about their feelings with emotional honesty, without being shut down or offered platitudes. 
Make time for more in-depth conversations. If you don’t have time in that moment, be honest and then arrange a more suitable time. 

Listen without thinking or interrupting 

Try not to start thinking about your response while you’re still listening. It’s ok if you don’t fully understand what they’re saying straight away, and it’s fine to pause for a minute while you gather your thoughts, even if it does feel a bit awkward. This ensures that the person has said everything they need to before carrying on. If you start interrupting, while you might think you’re offering help, the speaker might stop talking. 
How to actively listen

How to actively listen 

Listen without passing judgement or without telling them what to do, or how to feel. Don’t start any sentence with ‘you need to,’ ‘you should,’ ‘you must’ or ‘you have to,’ as no matter what you say after that, the reaction isn’t likely to be a positive one. These phrases imply that you are ‘instructing’ them and can feel like an attack. It is okay to make suggestions. 
If you’re listening to someone you care about, it’s only natural that you don’t want to see them hurting or going through a difficult time. However, if you’re not sure if they want your advice or not, you could always ask questions such as: ‘Is there anything I can do to help, or do you need to just talk about it?’ or ‘Would you like some help to come up with some solutions?’ 
Listening takes effort and energy to do. Pay attention to body language, tone of voice, what the person’s face is telling you. How is the other person speaking? Do they sound tense or anxious? If you’re truly listening, you’re taking all that into account, and that leaves much less space for you to focus on other things, like what you’re going to say next, or what you’re planning to have for dinner. 
If you’re aware that someone needs a listening ear but don’t know how to start the process, here are some useful questions that you could ask to prompt them. These are non-invasive questions that require more than a ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ or ‘I’m fine’ answer: 
What’s happening with you today? 
Sounds like you’re frustrated 
Looks like you’re unhappy, want to talk about it? 
What happened? 
Remember, they don’t need to be fixed, they do need to be heard. 
Be compassionate. 
Be a ‘heart with ears.’ 
If you think your friend, relative, or colleague needs more help, we have Grief Recovery Specialists around the country who can offer support. 

Get our 5-point plan to download! 

About the Author 
Maria Bailey
Maria Bailey is an Advanced Grief Recovery Specialist and looks after media relations for Grief Recovery UK. She has spent her career working in public relations. Maria now lives by the seaside in Devon with her family and dog, and is a school governor and preschool chairman. 
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