During my years of hairdressing I listened to my clients all the time – but I don’t think I realised how important it was, I just saw it as part of the job. Gradually I realised that it was something I loved doing.
Once in the chair a client can open up about some of their deepest and darkest secrets
I was surprised to find out recently that on average hairdressers spend 2,000 hours listening when they are cutting or styling someone’s hair. It makes sense to me now, but if I was to go back to beauty school and someone asked me about listening I would never have even considered the importance of fine-tuning my listening skills as part of my job.
When you’re cutting someone’s hair it’s a very intimate thing, you’re usually together for a minimum of 45 minutes, so you can’t help but talk. But, what’s really surprising, is how many people confide in you, once in the chair a client can open up about some of their deepest and darkest secrets.
Samaritans volunteers don’t give advice, we are there to help people find a solution for themselves
I would never offer advice, it was always just about listening to the other person and sometimes encouraging them to talk, and I guess that’s what drew me to becoming a Samaritans listening volunteer. Samaritans volunteers don’t give advice, we are there to help people find a solution for themselves, and that is about getting them to open up about anything they are struggling with. And at Samaritans we don’t tell people what to do, they are in control of their own lives and future.
When I answer a call as a Samaritans volunteer, I offer the person on the other end of the line a safe space to talk things through, my main job is to listen.
There’s a big difference between being there when someone is talking and really listening to them
Since training to become a Samaritans volunteer I’ve learned there’s a big difference between being there when someone is talking and really listening to them.
So that’s why I’m really excited that our branch is getting involved in Samaritans’ Talk to Us, a month-long awareness raising campaign with the theme of The Big Listen, which focuses on the power of listening.
This year the charity has teamed up with some of the nation’s hairdressers and barbers, including The Lions Barber Collective and Haircuts4Homeless, to highlight that while hairdressers and barbers are great listeners, anyone can learn to listen more effectively.
If we listened more to each other and showed more empathy, more people would speak out
As a society, if we listened more to each other and showed more empathy, it would encourage people to speak out when they are struggling and it could save lives.
At the moment, three times more people die by suicide than are killed by road accidents in the UK. Last year Samaritans volunteers responded to 5.7m calls for help, by phone, email, text and face to face.
So, Samaritans is raising awareness of the importance of listening and looking out for each other this July, culminating in more than 140 events between 22 and 24 July, where volunteers will be on hand to give out their SHUSH! Listening Tips, as well an awareness-raising event at King’s Cross station in London on Monday 24 July. We’re encouraging people to take a few minutes out to read the tips and to listen to a friend, family member or colleague.
As a Samaritans volunteer, I know what a difference that makes.
- You can call The Samaritans if you're struggling for free 24 hours a day from any phone on 116 123.