You may well have heard the phrase “active listening” before. You might have read about the need to better engage with your children or been told about how active listening can help you to be more attentive in business meetings.
But what does active listening actually mean? And how can it help those living with mental health conditions such as PTSD?
What is Active Listening?
Simply put, active listening is a way of showing that you are fully engaged with what the other person is saying. This includes making eye contact, nodding your head to show that you understand, and using open body language.
It’s important to remember that active listening is not just about hearing the words that someone is saying. It’s about trying to understand the meaning behind those words and how the other person is feeling. Consequently, active listening requires you to pay attention to both the verbal and nonverbal cues the other person is giving.
Why is Active Listening Important in the Context of Mental Health and PTSD?
Active listening is important because it shows the other person you value what they say. It also allows you to better understand their words and how they feel. This skill can be critical for those living with mental health conditions such as PTSD.
Active listening can help create a feeling of safety and trust, which are both crucial for those living with PTSD symptoms. It can also help to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness. Active listening can also help improve communication, which can be challenging for those living with PTSD.
How to Be an Active Listener
If you live with or know someone who is currently struggling with PTSD, there are some things that you can do to be a more active listener.
It’s essential to ensure that the person feels safe and comfortable before you start talking with them. Start by creating a physical environment that is safe and free from distractions. Next, note how you’re presenting yourself through your body language and ensure that you are not invading the other person’s personal space.
Once you have created a safe environment, focusing your attention on the other person is essential. This means making eye contact, nodding your head, and using open, relaxed body language. It’s also vital to avoid interrupting the other person and resist the urge to offer advice or solutions.
Finally, you need to try to understand that you may not agree with everything that the other person is saying or sympathise with the thoughts and feelings they are expressing. In that regard, you must respect their opinion and avoid judging them.
What If I Don’t Know Anyone with Active Listening Skills?
PTSD can often feel incredibly isolating, and when you don’t have people around you with the required skills to support you, it can make symptoms worse. If you don’t have anyone in your life with active listening skills, there are a number of organisations that can help.
At Sole Survivor, we offer active listening support services to anyone who needs them. We have a team of PTSD survivors who have completed CPCAB (Counselling and Psychotherapy Central Awarding Body) courses to Level 3 Certification in Counselling Studies (CST-L3) and are on the way to completing training to become counsellors.
They are here to create a safe space for you to talk, in a face-to-face environment or over the phone and online, based on our core principles of congruence, unconditional positive regard (accepting you for who you are, without prejudice or discrimination), and empathy.