Are you ever at a loss for words when someone is in distress? Not quite sure how to approach them? Sometimes we think they surely have better friends than I to talk with, and I really don’t want to pry in their personal business. But sometimes, it is the close friends that try to “lighten things up” as it may not be comfortable for them to connect at an intimate level. Sometimes people just need an ear to get in touch with their feelings.
Active listening may be the best gift we can give someone. And, it means we really don’t have to come up with wonderful verbiage that is appropriate for what they’re going through. In other words, listening means not speaking.
Here is an example on approaching someone that may be going through a hard time in their life. We can simply say to them, “I am very sorry for what you are going through.” Then stop talking. It really is that simple. If they care to talk, they will. It’s very important that you not be uncomfortable with silence. Often times we get uncomfortable with silence and we break their thought pattern by speaking. If they are looking down, it is likely they are processing their thoughts. Do not interrupt this process. You really don’t need to say anything more. All you need to do is be present with them and continue to listen. Give them your undivided attention. They will appreciate the few words you have to say and your gift of listening even if they care not to discuss with you at that time. Most of all, they will know that people do care how they are doing.
A stranger on the street may touch someone so deeply as to change their mind about suicide. This we should remember. This article is in dedication to my friend Aaron Patton who took his life last week. I write this article in hope that all of us will connect deeper to those we come into contact with, including our loved ones.