21st Dec 2017

Little acts of kindness: Learning to listen

Learning to listen

There are many ways to be kind that don’t cost the earth. Listening – actually hearing – your loved ones when they speak is one the nicest things you can do, and it’s free.

Today, author and blogger Bernadette Russell offers a simple lesson on learning to listen.


One of the best ways of being kind to your loved ones is by active, compassionate listening. We can all be guilty of hearing but not really listening, and we often do this when we wait impatiently for the other person to stop speaking so we can finally have our say.

Try this: next time you ask someone how they are, listen and don’t interrupt. Try to resist giving advice unless it’s asked for: ask questions instead. Give the person as much time as they need.

My friend Richard was telling me all about how he was considering giving in his notice at work. He told me work had become so stressful that he had insomnia, was constantly anxious and felt totally unappreciated by his boss. I was listening, but I was also thinking about how I could make him feel better by sharing an example of a similar experience that I’d had. Then he said, ‘I don’t want a solution. I just want to moan for five minutes.’ I’m so glad he told me that; it was a bit of a turning point for me.

Now I work on actively listening, especially with friends and family. People don’t always need your advice; instead, it may be a shoulder to cry on or for you to say ‘well done’.

It’s worth remembering that some people talk a lot because they don’t feel listened to enough, or because they’re lonely, or because they need to work something out aloud. Give them time to talk. Whether it’s hearing their problems or just news of their day, pay attention and listen.

Prompted by the seeming hopelessness of the world around her, Bernadette Russell undertook a pledge to be kind to a stranger every day for a year. The experience left her wanting to inspire others. The Little Book of Kindness is packed with fun ideas, practical tips and interactive exercises that encourage you to 'be kind' in every area of life – online, to strangers, to the environment, in your community, to yourself – and change the world, one act of kindness at a time.

The Little Book of Kindness by Bernadette Russell is published by Hachette Australia, RRP $16.99

Do you really listen when your friends and family talk to you?

Related articles:
Simple things to make you happy
Who can you complain to?
Focus exercises for hearing


To make a comment, please register or login
12th Jan 2018
You have changed the name from a female name to Richard , not wanting to solve problems just moan is typical female behaviour.
Here's a video which is hilarious.
12th Jan 2018
Absolutely right, Tib.
12th Jan 2018
Knows a lot did you watch the video, hilarious.
12th Jan 2018
When it comes to listening, women are terrible at it. But they do love to nag men.
12th Jan 2018
OMG. The woman haters are at it again. No wonder women don't listen to them. There comes a point, when someone is so negative and nasty and incapable of reason, when people just say ''enough already''! If you want to be listened to, show some respect for the listener.
12th Jan 2018
Rainey we are the new normal. I've never met a woman yet who wasn't completely self-centred. None of them are willing to support or listen to anyone unless there is something in it for them.
13th Jan 2018
Then you either haven't met many women, or you treat them in a way that invites them to be self-centred. There are lots of self-centred MEN AND WOMEN in the world. There are also many of both genders who are deeply caring, respectful, kind, generous, and very good listeners.

Scientologists (and before you go off on a tangent, I'm NOT one, but I knew a few) refer to what they call ''bringing it in''. It means that what you expect to receive, you usually will receive because by believing in something you will - consciously or unconsciously - behave in a way that attracts evidence that what you believe is true.

Police experience this all the time. If they think a suspect is guilty, they will unconsciously shape their investigation to expose a great deal of evidence that proves their theory, and they will overlook (not intentionally) the evidence that supports that person's claim of innocence.

When you stop ''bringing in'' negatives and start bringing in positives, the world begins to look very different.

Start believing most women are virtuous and you might be amazed at what you see. Because most women are good people, as are the majority of men. We just tend to hear more about the bad ones. A bitter man will always be quick to tell you his sad story of being done over by a nasty woman. A happily married man is more likely to joke about his ''Mrs'' or ''her indoors'' bossing him about - but if you dig deep, you'll find he adores her and probably subscribes to the belief that behind every good man there stands a good woman. And you know what, Tib? The happy man who says nice things is always far better liked and has far more credibility. You've made some intelligent comments on YLC (Can't say the same for your mate). Let's see more of the positive and constructive and less of the bitterness and negativity please. We'd all prefer to like you,
13th Jan 2018
Well Rainey that's the most balanced comment I've ever heard from you. No abuse no caps. I'm shocked. I'm sure you must understand with a 50% divorce rate , men continuously being insulted by feminist groups and laws being changed to disadvantage men. Feminism has done irreparable damage to the relationship between men and women, not to mention the unfair treatment in family courts. The number of men that look on women and marriage with suspicion and who doubt women's motives is growing exponentially.
13th Jan 2018
I agree with you about feminists, Tib. I was protesting their nonsense way back in the early '70s, and I'm still objecting to their radical rants. They've done great harm to women. Radicals never do their cause any favours.

I'm seeing some degree of change in trends in divorce courts, but not enough. But I guess having known some women who suffered hideous injustice at the hands of a mongrel man enables me to be a lot more objective than some. I think courts favoured women because of the children, but we are seeing more men fighting for custody or shared custody, or at least substantial access, and that can only be a good thing for all. Ultimately, what would be best for society is if we could return to some of the old-fashioned values of commitment and loyalty, and maybe making it a little harder to end a marriage.

Whenever people speak of divorce, I think of the words of an old friend who told me, ''My second husband really wasn't any better man than my first, but he got a much better wife. If divorce hadn't been so damned easy, we might both have tried harder first time around and we might have made it work.'' There's a strong message there for all of us. Relationships work best when you work at them.

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