How to Listen to someone who Is hurting.

How to Listen to Someone Who Is Hurting.
It is natural to feel reluctant or even afraid of facing another person’s feelings. But is it important not to let this fear prevent us from doing what we can to help someone who is suffering.

Some guidelines to make the Process Easier Process Easier

  • The most important thing to do is simply be there.
  • Don’t interrupt. Keep comments brief and simple so that you
    don’t get the person off track.
  • Ask questions which show your interest and encourage the
    person to continue talking, for example…
    - “What happened next”
    - “What was that like”
  • Give verbal and non verbal messages of care and support.
    Facial expressions and body posture go along way toward
    showing your interest.
  • Let people know that it’s OK to cry. Some people are
    embarrassed if they cry in front of others. Handing over a box of
    tissues is normal and appropriate. It’s also OK if you
    get a bit teary yourself.
  • Don’t be distressed by differences in the way people respond. One
    person may react calmly, while another may express strong
    emotions. One person may have an immediate emotional
    response; another may be “numb” at first and respond
    emotionally later. Emotions are rarely simple.
  • Don’t offer unsolicited advice. People usually will ask for advice
    later if they need it; initially it just gets in the way of talking
    things out.
  • Don’t turn the conversation into a forum for your own
    experience. If you have had a similar experience, you may want to mention it briefly when the moment is right. But do not say, “I know exactly how you feel.”
  • It’s natural to worry about saying the “wrong thing”. The
    following is a brief but helpful list of three other things not to say
    to someone who is suffering.
    - Anything critical of the person
    “You shouldn’t take it so hard”
    “You’re overreacting”
    - Anything which tries to minimize the person’s pain.
    “It could be a lot worse”
    “You’ll get over it”
    - Anything which asks the person to disguise or reject his/her hurt
    “You have to pull yourself together”
    “You need to be strong for your children’s sake”
  • People will understand if you say something awkward in a
    difficult situation.
  • Once you have finished talking, it may be appropriate to offer
    simple forms of help. This could include meals, rides,
    assistance with children, etc.
  • Also take care of yourself by talking to a friend, going for a walk,
    or whatever else may restore your spirits. Congratulate yourself
    on having had the courage to help someone in need when it
    wasn’t easy.

Information courtesy of Brian Pickering, Alberta Health Services, Grief
Counselor, RockyView Hospital, May 2011.