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.

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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?

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