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It has been said that 90% of "behavior problems" come from young people wanting adults to listen to them. One study reported that the number one request from suicidal teenagers was for adults to listen to them. The medical power of listening has also been proven by various studies.

We all feel better when we feel listened to. And we feel even better when we feel understood. In order to be understood, we must be listened to. Often it is more important to us to feel heard than to actually get what we said we wanted. On the other hand, feeling ignored and misunderstood is literally painful whether we are six or sixty.

As with other emotional needs, the need to be heard is a survival need. We are all interdependent. In other words, many of our basic needs depend on the cooperation of others. But first we must know and communicate our needs. For example, if we are a passenger in a car and we feel unsafe, we must communicate our feelings. If the driver ignores us, our lives may literally be threatened. If we are not heard, we cannot communicate our needs. It is understandable, then, that we feel frustrated or worse when we do not feel heard.

By developing our own listening skills, we can model them to others. They in turn will become better listeners and we will feel heard, understood and respected.


Remember that listening to either a child or adult helps him feel heard, understood, important, valued, respected and cared about. And remember that the best listeners focus on feelings, not "facts.

What One Suicidal Teen Said

Here is what one of the teens in our chat group said

i swear nobody is listening to me anymore
i really really really need to talk to people

but i dont want 'help'... i just want to be listened to...



  • Listen non-judgmentally
  • Attempt to identify the underlying feelings

"It sounds like you felt disappointed..."
"How did you feel when ... "

  • Listen with empathy; focus on feelings
  • Show understanding and connection

    "I understand." "I see." "I know how you feel." "I have felt that way, too."

  • Clarify and paraphrase, particularly the feelings

    "So, you really felt insulted, is that it?"
    "So you felt ___ and ____?"

  • Do not judge with your body language or facial expressions
  • Help the person focus while showing interest:

"What bothered you the most about it?"
"What did you like the most?"

  • Don't show disapproval
  • Don't spend your time "preparing your response"
  • Don't interrupt, evaluate or jump to conclusions
  • Use eye contact
  • Show interest by nodding, "uh huh's", etc.
  • Allow long pauses before asking questions; be patient
  • Give your full attention; stop other tasks
  • Avoid: "Scene stealing," Advising, Interrogating, "Sending solutions," Correcting, Debating


Will you please just listen?

Will you please just listen?

When I ask you to listen and you start giving advice, you have not done what I have asked.

When I ask you to listen and you start telling me why I shouldn't feel the way I do, you are invalidating my feelings.

When I ask you to listen and you start trying to solve my problem, I feel underestimated and disempowered.

When I ask you to listen and you start telling me what I need to do I feel offended, pressured and controlled.

When I ask you to listen, it does not mean I am helpless. I may be faltering, depressed or discouraged, but I am not helpless.

When I ask you to listen and you do things which I can and need to do for myself, you hurt my self-esteem.

But when you accept the way I feel, then I don't need to spend time and energy trying to defend myself or convince you, and I can focus on figuring out why I feel the way I feel and what to do about it.

And when I do that, I don't need advice, just support, trust and encouragement.

Please remember that what you think are "irrational feelings" always make sense if you take time to listen and understand me.


Quote by Keith Pearson

Listen, LISTEN

When you listen you affirm me
but your listening must be real
sensitive and serious
not looking busily around
not with a worried or distracted frown
not preparing what you are going to say next
but giving me your full attention.

You are telling me i am a person of value
important and worth listening to
one with whom you will share yourself.

I have ideas to share
feelings which I too often keep to myself
deep questions which struggle inside me for answers
I have hopes only tentatively acknowledged
which are not easy to share
and pain and guilt and fear I try to stifle

These are sensitive areas and a real part of me
but it takes courage to confide in another

I need to listen too if we are to become close
How can i tell you i understand?
I can show interest with my eyes or an occasional word
attuned to pick up not only spoken words
but also the glimmer of a smile
a look of pain, the hesitation, the struggle
which may suggest something as yet too deep for words

So let us take time together
respecting the others' freedom
encouraging without hurrying
understanding that some things may never be brought to light
but others may emerge if given time

Each through this listening, enriches the other
with the priceless gift of intimacy.

by Keith Pearson, Melbourne, Australia


During 1987, I spent close to $5000 of my ‘pocket change’, and at least 1000 hours of my time writing, printing, and mailing to any senator, congressman, governor, or slug that might listen; none did, and they universally treated me as if I was wasting their time. Joe Stack

Not listening leads to revolution. Listening leads to evolution. S. Hein