Renfrewshire Council

Suicide Prevention Week - how to be a good listener

Five steps to be a good listener

Listening to someone who is feeling low can help them speak up.

It can be hard to know what to do when you're talking with someone who is feeling low or suicidal. Here are five helpful types to help you start and keep the conversation going.


1. Ask them open questions

Rather than asking questions which only require a yes or no answer, try to ask open questions.

Instead of saying "has this been going on for a long time?", ask "how long has this been going on?" That way, instead of closing the conversation down into a yes or no response, you open it out and encourage the other person to keep talking.


2. Summarise what's been said

It helps to show that you've listened to, and understood, what's been said. You can do this by summarising. "So, you're being treated terribly by your partner, but you still love them?"


3. Reflect on the conversation

Repeating back a word or phrase can encourage people to go on. If someone says "so, it's been really difficult recently", you can keep the conversation going simply by reflecting on this and saying, "it sounds like it's been really difficult for you."


4. Clarify what's been said

We all skirt around or gloss over the most difficult things. If we can avoid saying them, we will. If the person you're speaking with glosses over an important point, try saying "tell me more about..." or "...sounds like a difficult area for you". This can help them clarify the points, not only for you, but for themselves.


5. React normally

You don't have to be completely neutral. If whoever you're talking with has been having an absolutely dreadful time, some sympathy and understanding is vital. "That must have been difficult" or "you've had an awful time" can be helpful things to say.


If you or someone you know is suicidal, you find support under 'related articles' and 'related links'.

Published: Thursday 13 September 2018.