- A large body of research validates the benefits of listening in silence to someone with depression and social anxiety.
- These works also highlight the importance of reflective listening and empathetic advising in mental health conversations.
Depression And The Science Of Listening
Depression is a debilitating mental health condition, marked by symptoms like sadness, anhedonia, worthlessness, and fatigue. Many people with depression find it difficult to manage their symptoms on their own and benefit from having someone to talk to.
Talking to someone about depression can provide an opportunity to share thoughts and feelings, and to receive support and encouragement. This can help to reduce feelings of isolation and helplessness and increase feelings of hope and empowerment.
However, recent research has shown that not all forms of communication are helpful for individuals with depression.
Does Listening In Silence To Someone With Depression Help?
A recent study published in the Journal of Social Psychology claimed that listening in silence to someone with depression might actually increase social anxiety. Conducted by the Hebrew University Business School, the study saw 95 participants respond to questionnaires about depression, social anxiety, narcissism, and “time-sharing” communication.
The results revealed that, for people with high levels of narcissism and depression, listening with time-sharing does not have a positive effect on psychological safety and increased social anxiety.
In fact, it cancels out the benefits of effective listening in mental health conversations. However, for individuals with low levels of narcissism and depression, time-sharing increases psychological safety and decreases social anxiety.
The findings of the study suggest that it’s important to consider individual differences when using time-sharing as a listening technique in any mental health conversation. This includes being mindful of an individual’s preferences and needs, and to offer different types of support accordingly.
It is also highlighted that other techniques (such as offering emotional support or giving advice) may be more effective for individuals with high levels of narcissism and depression. Nonetheless, actively seeking professional treatment for depression remains the most important step toward recovery.
Bettering Listening Techniques In Mental Health Conversations
To better your listening techniques during mental health conversations, it is important to give your full attention to the speaker and show empathy by acknowledging their feelings and experiences. Avoid interrupting or changing the subject, and, instead, use open-ended questions to encourage them to share more.
Practice active and reflective listening by summarizing what they said to show understanding and use non-judgmental language. Be mindful and present at the moment, avoiding distractions and multitasking.
Be patient and avoid rushing or pushing for a resolution. Ask the speaker what kind of support they need and adapt your approach to their needs. Remember, a little support means a lot to someone experiencing the debilitating consequences of mental illness.