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Characteristics for a Good Listener

by Dorothy Hennessy

‘Though good advice lies deep within a Counsellor’s (Listener’s) heart, the wise man will draw it out’
Proverbs 20:5.

The ‘road to recovery’ can be undertaken in relationship with both God/Higher Power, and in the context of developing trustworthy relationships, within the setting of a healthy local Recovery Group/ Community Christian Fellowship. A ‘Good Listener’ may be an AA/NA/Alanon Sponsor; a Pastor/Priest/Minister/Vicar; a Counsellor/Psychotherapist/Social Worker/Psychologist; a Policeman/Detective/J.P. or a trusted friend. The strength of a ‘Good Listener’ will be their ability to ‘actively hear’ what you are sharing, as well as someone whom you ‘trust’, and will feel ‘comfortable’ when you make yourself accountable to them. 
 

Characteristics to Look for in a Good Listener may include:


Are they Confidential with what you share? Do they respect your privacy or do you hear back from others what you have shared with them?
 
Are they honest with their own journey? Does their walk match their talk? Are they transparent about their recovery/life journey?  Is there evidence that they apply the principles of the 12 steps in their own lives?  It is wise to be accountable to someone who is ahead of you in their Steps Journey.
 
Do they make themselves accountable to a safe person?  i.e.‘Do they have regular Supervision/12 Steps with Sponsor/Counsellor/Pastor/Social Worker etc?  Do their lives encourage you to model theirs?
 
Do they attend a Recovery Group/Church/Community Fellowship? Are they part of a healthy Christian Fellowship/Recovery Community, which they attend regularly?
 
Do they have a healthy faith in God/Higher Power? Do you see spiritual integrity in their lives?  Are the spiritual fruits of love, faith, hope, goodness, knowledge, self control, patience, endurance and Godliness being developed and exercised in their lives?  2 Peter 1:5
 
Do they exhibit healthy boundaries when they listen to you? Do they respect your ‘No’? Do they understand the difference between ‘caring’ for you with ‘empathy’, instead of ‘rescuing’ you with ‘sympathy’?  It may also be helpful to have the ‘same sex Listener’, especially when recovering from ‘addictive relationships’.
 
Do they possess good listening skills? i.e. can they Reflect; Clarify; Question; Allow Silences; Challenge; Paraphrase; Summarise; without taking over your sharing time?  See Footrot Flats: The Tale of a Dog’s ‘Active Listening’ Handout. 
 
Do they listen objectively? Can they be an objective sounding board for your reflections and goals, or do they respond subjectively by over identifying with you? Or attempting to control your recovery journey?
 
Do they have enough resources and knowledge of their own recovery journey, to be able to offer you suggestions? Sometimes we need assistance to see new options or alternatives to what we usually do.
 
Are they available to meet with you on a regular basis? It is helpful to have someone to talk over the details of issues that may arise for you in a Recovery Meeting/12 Step Group/ In or Out Patient Rehabilitation.
 
Are they available in times of crisis or potential relapse? 'Two men can resist an attack that would defeat one man alone’: Ecclesiastes 4:12 GNB; A Text or phone call may be as helpful as a visit, in a crisis! 
 
Remember that a ‘Good Listener’ can resign or be fired by you. Be open to changes, as being a ‘Good Listener’ or a ‘Sponsor’ is not a lifetime position.)
 

Article posted 25 April 2018
 
dorothy hennessy counsellor invercargill
Dorothy Hennessy is a Counsellor and Life Coach with a private practice in Invercargill

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