Active listening is a skill all therapists learn. It is the ability to listen without interruption but listen for key issues that repeat or may be significant.
Care but do not tell them what to do. People in relationship issues can get things very twisted in terms of what they are feeling and thinking. No specific advice offered at that time will be helpful. Instead, it’s best to support, use phrases such as “that seems difficult” or “how was that for you”. Be supportive but not directive.
Pay attention. Don't be making a cake, washing the dishes, or changing a nappy while you’re listening to them. To be present and kind and loving is always key.
Ask if they are OK. If you suspect domestic violence then ask them about how they are hurt or if they are scared. Consider what they are telling you. Do not act upon anything without checking with them first. If you feel they are in danger suggest they access help and find a helpline number for them to call. Be there for them and give them access to you.
Remember boundaries. A friend in need can be very demanding for a long, long time. Don't be afraid to set times to talk or be together. Calls at 01.00 when we have work the next day aren't helpful or welcomed. Be strong and discuss that you want to be there for them and ask if checking in several times a week would be good. Take care of yourself and you'll be able to take care of them.
Be mindful that we all, YES ALL, have relationship issues. We do not necessarily leave a relationship, so don’t ‘gang up' on your friend's partner. They may well make up again. Take it for what it is and help your friend to get through this difficult time without pulling punches.
Again if domestic violence is part of your friend's situation find them helplines online and do what you can to help them be safe.
Consultant, psychological therapist, counsellor and author with 30+ years’ experience, and a specialist in toxic relationships including domestic violence, narcissism and co-dependency, Michael Padraig Acton, is a relationships expert based in both the UK and US, originally from Ireland. His new book in the ground-breaking self-help series, Power Of You, is out July 2021: Learning How To Leave (A Practical Guide to Stepping Away from Toxic Narcissistic Relationships). His second book in the series, Learning How To Be A ‘Good Enough’ Parent is out November 2021 and his third on grief Learning How To Heal is out February 2022. Michael is available for media interviews, this article is available for media use in part/full, please contact Literally PR: firstname.lastname@example.org.