A young man was in the kitchen after work, speaking to his mother about a problem that had cropped up that day. He noted that she had stopped cutting up the salad she was preparing and turned around to face him. While he was talking, she nodded and said; ‘I see,’ a few times. At one point, she asked a question to check whether he was giving her the correct information: all the information. When he seemed done, she said; ‘It sounds like you had a tough day at work. I wonder why someone accused you of saying something that wasn’t true, but I am impressed that you sorted it out, even if it took you time and energy to do so. I understand that you managed to clear the air and that you and your co-worker are still going to watch the soccer match together over the weekend, right?’ He hugged her and said,’“Thanks for your input, Mom.’
This young man has a mental illness and is very short on confidence. When he was released from the psychiatric hospital, he would never have been able to sort out even a straightforward problem like this one, but after agreeing to see a therapist for some time, this is the result. It seems so simple, doesn’t it? But not to a person who has been through a tough time including a psychotic incident.
This mother practiced active listening as opposed to passive listening where the person being consulted continues to do what he/she was doing when approached and does not give full attention to the matter at hand.