Listening provides the human connection that is so crucial when one is suffering or experiencing confusion or despair. When listening is done as an act of caring it also becomes a healing process. Care is an invitation to growth, cure is a remedy for illness. Care not cure is the primary goal of listening.
We need volunteers – we can’t function without your support. You give that personal touch, you give your time. The gift of your presence offers a link to humanity when a person feels isolated, alienated, or unwanted by others. As helpers we need a listening attitude and readiness to suspend critical judgement, and empathetic understanding. We must respect the fact it is a privilege to enter another human being’s world. If we see each client as a precious, unique human being rather than a case we’ll be able to express compassion and friendliness.
Within each person there is a deep need to be heard, as a real person, a person of importance who merits attention and respect. No person is to be rejected as beyond understanding. There are no impossible people, just difficult ones. We hear each other through the filter of our individual personalities.
Helping is an emotionally demanding activity and we must take time to recharge our batteries. Acknowledge your limitations, be yourself, don’t use formulas or reassuring cliches, and be prepared to make a referral for deeper or continued counselling.
– Scripture: James l:19, 20-3:13, 17, 18: “Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good life let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. The wisdom from above is first genuine then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and evidences of goodness, without uncertainty or insincerity. Right relationships grow from the seeds of peace planted by those who make peace.
– 10 Commandments of listening:
1. I will first truly understand then evaluate. “I’m so caught up by how you say it that I don’t know what you said – the way you said that was so insightful, rude clever…”
2. I will not fill in the gaps with my ideas. I will listen to you not my improvements or my supporting data. “What you really mean is…”
3. Will not assume that what I heard is what was truly said or what was really meant. Look out for words that triggers an emotional reaction.
4. I will not permit my thoughts to stray or my attention to wander.
5. I will not close my mind to opposing thoughts, opposite truths, or other views. I will listen to your whole message even if I would rather not hear it.
6. I will not permit my heart to rule my mind or my mind to rule my heart. “I knew you’d say that…”
7. I will not interpret words except as they are interpreted by the speaker. Multiple meanings
8. I will not use my listening time to prepare my response. “I can’t wait until you need a breath to give my answer…”
9. I will not be afraid to listen, to learn, to change or to grow. We enrich each other.
10. I will respect your right to be equally heard and I will claim my right to be equally heard. Demand equal time.
– Ask yourself:
1. Why did I make this particular response to this client’s remark?
2. What was behind it?
3. What was I reacting to?
4. What was I trying to convey to the client?
5. Why did I ask that question?
6. Was it really asked for purposes related to helping the client?
7. Was I merely being curious?
8. Was I really being judgemental by asking that question?
9. Why did I feel compelled at this point to give advice?
10. Was it because I felt that the client expected me to have all the answer?
Some of our clients suffer with chronic mental illness. Many have received the diagnosis of schizophrenia, which is a major thought disorder which disconnects thought patterns that often make words difficult to communicate. Often a person feels extra vulnerable, aimless, embarrassed, and ashamed at his behaviour when ill and unable to cope with the stigma of mental illness – this is a fragile state. Some of his symptoms may be hallucination, delusions, thought confusions, which are triggered by various stresses. Reality can’t match the beauty of fantasy.
Clients may pace up and down finding it difficult to sit still. Jerky motor movements and restlessness are usually side effects of antipsychotic medication, as are dry mouth, blurred vision, drowsiness. These clients respond to reduced stimuli and calm interactions – we may feel threatened as workers because we feel manipulated, but we must understand there has been a loss of skills and conflicting feelings that now exist around almost everyting. When the medication is too low or stress increases the client may become incomprehensible, talking nonsense, unconnected thoughts or sentences, which have special meaning to the client; ie. psychiatry may sound like sigh kaya tree and the topic may switch from a discussion of psychiatry to trees and gardens.
Getting through to a person who cannot or will not talk is frustrating. Remember he is not being rude
or stubborn. He is ill. He is having a hard time trying to figure out what has happened to him and it is not easy to put this sort of confusion into words. Give instructions on a one to one basis, one at a time. Keep distractions to a minimum. Try to understand facial expressions and non-verbal messages. Speak directly in clear, short simple sentences said in a supportive way. Communicate through written words as thoughts tend to be more organized in writing. The client still may not answer or make total sense. Be patient.
There is a marvelous blessing to be found in putting ourselves out to meet the needs of others. The blessing is that we discover that Jesus Himself is on the receiving end of our love. He said “I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you received me in your homes, naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you took care of me, in prison and you visited me. I tell you whenever you do this for one of the least important of my brothers you do it for me.” Matt. 25