How To Be A Better Listener

Mental Health Awareness Month is coming to a close, but that doesn’t mean we should stop spreading awareness about mental illness and how to support those who are struggling. 

Treating mental health issues can be a complicated, lengthy process involving therapeutic treatment, medication, and lifestyle changes. However, if you know someone who is battling a mental illness, there is one simple thing you can do to help: listen. 

Active listening has been shown to be an effective tool in aiding individuals with mental health struggles such as anxiety and depression. 

“Listening” sounds like an easy, intuitive task, but it is actually a skill that needs to be learned and practiced. Here are three ways to be a better listener: 

  1. Don’t try to fix the problem right away. Often when a loved one is venting or sharing their pain, they don’t want an immediate solution. Many times they are looking for a listening ear and some empathy instead of a fix for their problem. To be a better listener, try reflecting back what you heard someone say before you jump to solutions. By repeating or summarizing what someone else shares you will help them feel seen and appreciated. Once their nervous system has calmed down you can then try to find a solution together. 
  2. Don’t think about what you are going to say next. To be a better listener, try focusing all your attention on understanding the other person’s point of view instead of thinking about counter-arguments or your own personal opinion on the matter. When all your energy is focused inwards you have less capacity to really hear what another person is saying and be affected by it. 
  3. Try listening for underlying value and desires. When listening to a loved one express themselves, try hearing what is between the lines. Track both the content of what they are saying as well as what the content says about them as a person and what they value. Perhaps in expressing anger, your friend or family members is actually expressing a need for respect or personal space. If you’re not sure of the underlying value, don’t be afraid to ask. 

For more mental health tips and resources, stay tuned to our blog and Instagram account @ventspaceapp.