Republished with permission from the Whitman College Peer Listener Handbook Note: The handbook is an excellent resource, especially when listening in person, however it does not perfectly mesh with LiveWire's "Peer Answers" philosophy.
Your first contact with a peer is crucial. The person is most likely anxious and it is important to be nonjudgmental, sympathetic, empathetic, and be able to listen carefully.
Below is a list of practice items to remember when making contact:
Overwhelm with advice
Lecture or flood with information
Dwell on failures -- help them move onto "improvement" or "better" instead of from wrong to right
Force decisions or choices
Undermine their right to make a decision
Assume -- check out assumptions with questions
Threat or attack
Tell client to relax or calm down in a demanding tone
Assume you know what is best
Take their anger personally
Retreat from their anger
Be honest, clear, and straightforward
Be willing to listen and empathize with feelings
Acknowledge their competency
Provide client with all the necessary information
Involve them in their growing process
Acknowledge and validate anger
Deal with feelings of anger, not their words
Emotional reactions and volatility are normal, necessary and productive. Start where the person is and work within their system or framework.