Listening To Someone Can Save A Life
After cutting her arm with a broken glass, she fell into a fitful and exhausted sleep on the railway station platform in London. Early the next morning, she got up painfully to her feet to make her way to the station toilets. She looked at herself in the mirror and cried. She could barely recognise herself. Her face was dirty and stained, and her clothes were torn and stained with blood. She started to wash herself.
The wounds needed to be stitched. They would start bleeding as soon as she touched them. But she knew she couldn’t go to the hospital because they would send her back home. The place she hated the most. Her mother had estranged her a year ago and she was being physically abused by her father and his friends every single day. Every night she would sleep, wishing that she wouldn’t wake up the next morning. She was devastated.
There was only one thing she could think of doing at that time. She painfully walked over to the PCO booth outside the station.
“Samaritans, can I help you?” “Hello? Can I help you,” said the lady who answered her call.
The girl cried, “I don’t know.”
“My name is Pam, what can I call you? Where are you speaking from?"
The girl continued to cry but answered Pam’s questions. She said, “Calling from a phone box in London. I want to die. If my father doesn’t kill me, I want to do it myself.”
Pam asked the girl her age and got to know that she’s only 14 years old. She gently asked her some more questions about herself.
The girl’s name was Sophie Andrews and she had called Samaritans - a 24/7 UK based confidential helpline for anyone who might be feeling depressed, or suicidal.
Sophie called Samaritans regularly during those years not because she needed advice, but because it was just so comforting to have someone listening to her at the other end. She caught up on her studies, managed to persuade someone to give her a job and she survived the abuse rather than becoming a victim.
When Sophie turned 21, she called the helpline again. But this time, it was to ask them if she could volunteer to be a Samaritan too. Over the years, that vulnerable caller eventually went on to become the national leader of the organisation who was responsible for 22,000 other volunteers!
Today, she gives complete credit of this transformation to someone who was always there to listen to her when she was desperate and suicidal. A volunteer giving up time and listening to her without any judgement and keeping it confidential had a huge, life-changing impact on her.
In a way to pay back, in 2013 she set up a national helpline in the UK for lonely and isolated older people. ‘The Silver Line’ has taken more than 1.5 million calls till date! Some people call because they are lonely and looking for a friendly chat, others call to report abuse or simply because they have given up on life. They have Silver Circles, which are group/conference calls for people to share their interests with each other. People connect through these circles and play musical instruments they are passionate about, for others to listen. The Silver Line gets some phenomenal response and feedback from their callers.
Older people who have no one to talk to, call up and just speak their hearts out. They now consider volunteers as part of their own family.
Quite often callers start by saying, “Could you please give me some advice on….?” And 25 minutes later, by the end of the call, they say, “Thank you so much for your advice!” and volunteers realise they haven’t given any! It’s amazing how a listener can listen without interruption and lead the caller to find a solution all by himself.
In a recent survey conducted by The Silver Line, some callers were asked about what this service meant to them. An old man came back and said, for the first time in life, he felt that he had what we could call a ‘wicketkeeper’ in cricket and a ‘catcher’ in baseball.
Everyone needs a catcher at some point or the other in their lives. Sophie considers herself lucky in life. Lucky to have a catcher alongside her at that time, who may be believed in her and in turn, helped her believe in herself just a little bit more.
It’s surprising how we can sometimes underestimate the power of a simple human connection. Genuinely listening to someone can help them overcome the toughest phase of their life.
How many of us actually listen to others? We do. But, mostly to give our advice on what the other person is saying. We have our counter-questions ready before she/he even completes what she/he has to say.
Listening is the most important ingredient for building healthy relationships, great teams and emerging as a great leader.
In his iconic book, ‘How to win friends and influence people’, Dale Carnegie has shared some golden rules –
Be a good listener, encourage others to talk about themselves, become genuinely interested in others, try to honestly see things from the other person’s point of view and be sympathetic to the other person’s ideas. Perhaps, it would be a good idea to use at least some of these because everyone loves being listened to.
Think about it. We tend to fall for those who listen to us, vote for people who listen to us and also buy the products or services of those who listen to us! Powerful. Isn’t it?
If you want to help someone, the best way to do it is to empathetically listen to them. Don’t judge or jump to conclusions. You don’t know what she/he might be going through. Listen to lead the person to find a solution for himself. Sometimes, giving no advice is the best advice you might give.
Become someone’s catcher. Listen because you care. Remember. It has the power to save a life!
Join our communities to find like-minded people who will listen to you, the way a friend would. Help someone else, seek help or just start chatting!
A*****Tanya - come and talk to us in the communities - talking to someone may help.
P*****Why do you wanna die ?
T*****I wanna die too