Attention and intention

Full of life, banish loneliness, be a good listener

Is this the face of a good listener? Would you like to have her as a friend to talk to?

One crucial thing to understand is the way we connect with others. It’s not enough to be in the same place as other people. You can be in a crowded room, a busy station, a park full of people, even in bed with your spouse… and still feel lonely. In fact, it can feel much worse – to be close to others but be shut out, shut off from them, invisible. Sometimes you feel that even if you yelled and screamed, no-one would hear you.

Sometimes even if you’re in the middle of a conversation, you can feel that your companion has drifted off, distracted by something else or just daydreaming. They’re not listening to you any more, and when you prod them, they are startled as they pull their attention back to you.

“Sorry, I was miles away…”

Not very flattering, is it? Is what you were saying so boring?

Who knows what was going on in their head. Maybe they were terribly worried and couldn’t concentrate. Maybe they saw something fascinating over your shoulder. Maybe they’re exhausted after a hellish day. Maybe they’re shallow and selfish and need a slap…

Ignore that last bit – it’s how it makes us feel but it’s almost certainly not fair.

We’ve all had it happen to us… but have you ever been guilty of it? Not listening, not keeping your attention focused on what someone is telling you?

Being a good listener is a great way to connect: here are seven points of a listener.

banish loneliness, be full of life

Are they listening? Are they people you’d want as friends for their kindness and empathy?

1. Keep eye contact as much as possible; keep your eyes on the speaker’s face, at least.

2. Listen with all your senses – more is said with body language and tone of voice than with words.

3. Don’t interrupt. Don’t argue. Ask questions to get clarity, not to interrogate.

4. Stay close but not too close – don’t invade the speaker’s personal space unless invited.

5. Let your body show your interest; lean forward just a little, don’t fidget, but nod your head to indicate you hear them and understand.

6. Listen with empathy. Don’t criticise, and don’t judge – not even in your head.

7. Be kind. The speaker will feel your kind intention.

Do you know how it feels to have a good listener to talk to? 

Are you a good listener?



A big hug, a light touch

The best medicine

Hugs are supposed to be great. The best hugs are great. But are we too scared to give each other proper, heartfelt hugs?

How do you like yours?

I like huggers who hug gently but completely. A hug of kindness, from top to toe, long enough for the kindness to sink in. A gift of a hug, that gives energy and kindness and doesn’t take. A hug that doesn’t hurt or strangle. A hug that leaves me tingling with life. A hug I want to repeat…

A hug should be two-way, that gives and receives at the same time.

But a return hug should be received, not taken. Do you get the difference? Receiving the love or kindness from your hugger is allowing them to give; taking  from your hugger is a bit like a vampire sucking the life out of a victim.

‘Give me a hug’ is the cry of a needy person. “Let me give you a hug” is the offer of a generous soul.

Heartfelt hugs are life-affirming, kind and loving

The best hugs feel safe and warm, gentle but firm, kind, giving, open, no-strings, head to toe, wholehearted and heart-felt. The best hugs are  life-affirming, reviving, reassuring, generous, sharing, unconditional kindness.

Who’s your favourite hugger?

Who can you hug right now?

Trust filters out the untrustworthy

People who find it hard to trust others are likely to be lonelier than those who don’t. If you suspect that people are out to get you, you’ll probably get got at. At least you have the satisfaction of saying ‘I told you so’, but it’s a pretty hollow victory. It’s difficult to become close to someone if you have to overcome a belief that everyone’s a potential villain. Your new contact isn’t going to respond well to your initial paranoia, and will probably move on to a friendlier face.

I’m away from home for two weeks, and I needed to find a housesitter to keep the place warm and look after the critters. I found someone on (great site), and after swapping emails and a couple of phone conversations, Mihai turned up. It was a matter of trust on both sides – he trusted me not to be a mad old bat who was going to lock him up and eat him, and I had to have faith that he wasn’t a thieving conman who’d sell my secrets to the Sun on Sunday. Turns out he’s a lovely man and is having fun at the house, has been adopted by cats and neighbours, and is a treasure.

You might be thinking I was naïve and credulous to let a stranger into my house at all, let alone leave him to his own devices. You might be right, but I’ve found that most people are okay, if not utterly fab, given half a chance. Maybe I’ll get done over one day and I’ll feel stupid and bitter, but so far so groovy.

I know very few people who are miserable gits and have an address book full of wonderful people. It could be sheer luck, but it could be that my (arguably naïve) trusting attitude is a subtle filter that stops me finding the gits and the villains and sends me warm, open and generous strangers to befriend.

What’s your experience? Has trust rewarded you or has naivety punished you?

Loneliest in the city?

It’s a truism that people can feel desperately lonely in a big city, surrounded by people but feeling disconnected, invisible, anonymous. In the Evening Standard, Ben Rogers claims that London isn’t such a lonely place, unless you’re in a vulnerable or disadvantaged group. It’s a frothy place, he says, where people meet and play and talk and loneliness doesn’t impinge even on the singletons.

What he doesn’t take into account is that if the frothy social life stops for some reason – bereavement, death, unemployment, moving away, illness, whatever – the reliance on others for your wellbeing can mean overwhelming loneliness surging in like a neap tide.

Nor, for that matter, does a busy social life mean that you’re not lonely. Being surrounded by friends and busy with social activity is no insurance against lying in bed at night, alone or otherwise, loneliness chewing at your innards. Look at all the celebs who confess to loneliness despite their high-profile lifestyle, in demand and apparently adored. Surrounded, and lonely.

Empty stars

Some lonely people feel invisible and worthless because they aren’t famous or rich or successful, and dream of being discovered and turned into an overnight star, or being whisked away by a rich lover. It’s a dodgy dream, though, since a cursory flick through the media will bring up dozens – hundreds – of cautionary tales.

Like Etta James, Elvis, Jacko and so many others, fame, success, talent and enormous wealth don’t stop the lonely feelings – they often make them worse. The media is full of stories of stars and celebs admitting to crippling loneliness. The more famous and rich and beautiful they are, the more ‘friends’ and fans they get, the fewer genuine friends they can rely on. And how could you tell if someone loved the glittery image and the de luxe lifestyle, or the real person, the one dragging round the house in the morning with bed hair, panda eyes, baggy pyjamas and the same neuroses and fears and flaws as anyone else. The human being behind the tinsel, when the spotlight’s turned off. Are they lovable? Are they worth all the fuss? When will the world spot the fraud?

Celebs wearing sunglasses indoors; celebs covered in bling and shouting the odds, celebs getting into trouble – maybe what’s underneath the nonsense is a lonely person who doesn’t know how else to cope.