Setting up at Listening Partnership:
- Choose someone you know, a friend or colleague who you think would be a good listener. Or you may enjoy the depth of safety that comes from pairing with someone you have never met. You can join the Facebook group called Hand in Hand Listening Support UK and post your availability in there to link up with others seeking this kind of arrangement.
- Agree a regular time where you can swap between 10-45 minutes each. Use a timer. The person with the biggest feelings in that moment goes first.
- It can be a good idea to suggest trying out a few sessions with a new listening partner to check that you are a good match for each other.
- Ask for feedback at the end to find out what your partner found helpful.
- Build safety by observing confidentiality to the extent where you do not mention the other person’s content unless they bring it up first. Try to avoid giving feedback or even chatting either side of your turn.
- Use a little question to pull your partner’s attention outward, such as ‘What did you eat for breakfast?’ or ‘Tell me your phone number backwards’. This stimulates the thinking part of the brain and pulls their attention from the emotional centre.
Guidelines for listening:
- Move in close with your warmth, eye contact and attention.
- Remember that the person who is speaking is and has always been doing their very best (and likewise any of the people they are talking about).
- Avoid any urge to reassure, ask questions or offer advice. Just be with them and allow their depth of feeling. Remember your attention alone is all they need to figure any of this out and that they are the expert on their own life as they have all the inside information.
- Help your partner focus on the feelings that lie beneath what they say. Gently guide their attention back to the issue that seems emotionally charged. You might ask:
Can you say more about that?
How is that for you?
When did you first feel that way?
Who does he remind you of?
What does this make you feel like doing?
Was there ever a time it wasn’t this way?
Help them laugh or tremble by doing so with them. Encourage them to rage by offering your hands to push on or suggesting something like “Try saying ‘I hate it when you do this’” or “Try saying ‘leave me alone’”. Help them cry by offering your warmth, understanding and closeness.
- Counter feelings of inadequacy, separation, loss, guilt or shame, by reminding them that none of this was their fault, they are doing their absolute best, they are a good parent/spouse/friend.