How to Listen and What to Say

How to let someone feel heard

I recently took a bus for the first time since covid-19 descended on us all, and couldn’t help hearing the conversation of two women sitting behind me. It went something like this.

‘I’m so worried about Bill. I know there is something seriously bothering him because he’s snappy, which isn’t like him. He was like that a while ago and it turned out he had some symptoms which the doctor wanted him to have checked out. He didn’t get round to it for ages, by which time he was expecting the worst, and then he had the test and got the all clear. And I knew none of this until he told me that he was all right! “I didn’t want to worry you,” he said. Now it is like that again and he keeps batting me away if I ask anything—’

‘—My sister’s husband’s like that,’ her companion interjected. ‘He keeps everything to himself, even when it is something good, like a possible promotion. It drives my sister mad.’

In the short silence that followed, I had to leave my seat to exit the bus, and didn’t hear how, or if, the conversation progressed.

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