Listening – A Helping Skill

One of the best ways to help someone is to simply, listen. Listen to your family, friends, employees, co-workers, the janitor, the guards, the person at the sales counter, the barista, the person on the bus…anyone! When people are allowed to voice their opinions, vent, and speak about issues they are experiencing, they release built up emotions and frustration. Speaking about issues brings a sense of freedom and ease…the feeling that people want to hear what they have to say because they care.

Hearing and listening are two different concepts. Hearing is when the sound simply entering your ears without any deep interpretation or use of the message. Listening involves interpreting the message and using the information. Active listening is also important. To be an active listener, show that you are listening, interested, and understand what is being spoken. Nod your head throughout the conversation, smile, use facial expressions that denote acceptance of the message, add to the conversation as well. If you do not understand, ask the speaker to say it again or explain. If you do not agree, say it and say why.


Listen to your immediate and extend families. These are people who have known you since birth. Listen to them speak if they need to vent their feelings. Sometimes, we may not always find a friend who understands us completely but we should be able to rely on family to be our support system. By allowing your family members to speak, you may pick up on a change in attitude and behaviours, which in important in recognizing mental illness, self harm, and suicidal tendencies. You may realize your child is being bullied or needs to visit a doctor for a physical issue. There are many reasons for listening to your family members speak. Never let your family think you are annoyed at their speaking or you are too busy to ever listen. Make the time and show your interest!

Just as people may not have friends to share their thoughts with, they may not have family. If a friend, acquaintance, random sales clerk, barista, person on bus, etc tries to speak, spend a few minutes listening. You do not have to spend all day listening, or become their counselor. Simply, engage in meaningful conversation. This may be the stress release, or you may give the guidance and understanding that saves their lives.

Employees. Always be willing to listen to your employees’ issues. These are the people who can make or break your business. Employees are in charge of providing effective service to clients. With employees experiencing high stress, interpersonal issues, or in need of guidance, their performance may drop, and by default, productivity in the workplace declines. Allow your employees to speak to you personally about issues in the workplace and maybe even personal issues that you can shed light on. In fact, by listening to your employees (yes, even the ‘lower level employees’), you may gain innovative ideas, and feedback relevant to improving your services. 

Listening is a main quality of leadership and necessary to uphold strong relationships. Many businesses, relationships, families, and friends experience turmoil because people are not willing to listen to other people’s problems, opinions, issues, or ideas. If you want to be a successful leader, parent, spouse, friend, or person, always listen to what other’s have to say.



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