It’s important to realise is that there is no magic formula, phrase or approach that is the ’right’ thing to say or do. There isn’t a right set of words or attitudes that will always help. If you want to help someone who’s facing a difficult time, just wanting to help and offering to be there for that person is what matters most.
One of the most important things is not what we say – it’s that we’re there and that we listen. When you understand the few simple rules of good listening, you’ll be a great help and support. Listening can help build a relationship between you both that allows you to be even more supportive and to know what your relative or friend needs.
Being a good listener can help you understand in part what another person is feeling. We can never completely understand another person’s thoughts and feelings, but listening helps us understand enough for them to feel that we empathise with them. Empathy means sensing what another person is feeling. It’s an important way of showing love and concern for another person. This, in itself, can be very reassuring to a person with cancer.
As a listener, you don’t need to have all the answers. You can help someone just by listening and simply allowing them to talk. A lot of the most awkward gaps in communication are due to not knowing some of the principles that help people talk freely. These are discussed on the following pages.