Worthing volunteer joins celebrities like Dame Julie Walters and Michael Palin in new book about the art of listening

A Worthing Samaritans volunteer features in a new book about listening, alongside famous faces including Dame Julie Walters and Michael Palin.

Friday, 15th January 2021, 5:23 pm

Sophie Badman, 27, from Littlehampton has shared her story to help promote the art of listening and says this practical guide, filled with advice and tips, could not have come at a better time.

Samaritans: How to Listen was published on January 7, 2021, and is priced £12.99 in paperback. It brings together a host of expert listeners, including the charity’s trained volunteers and famous faces.

Sophie said: “This last year has been a real struggle for everyone, with lack of human interaction and loneliness, it feels to me like this book couldn’t have come out at a better time. We need to remember to check in with each other and that it is okay not to be okay.

Sophie Badman, left, with other Worthing Samaritans volunteers

“Mental health can still be tough to talk about, people don’t want to burden family and friends, people are scared of being judged. Our loved ones want to help and this book will be a major eye-opener on how to reach out and really listen to each other.

“I feel so privileged to be a part of this amazing book. I wish there was something like this out when I was struggling, it could have really helped my family and friends to start a conversation with me.”

In the book, Sophie talks of her struggle with depression and explains how it started.

She said: “I was in a bad car accident, which really turned my life upside down for the worse. My head couldn’t deal with what happened and I find having ‘feelings’ conversations really difficult. I tend to pretend that I am okay when I am not, so didn’t open up about how I was struggling with life and sunk deeper and deeper into depression.

“During this dark period, the people around me tried as best as they could to try to help me and encourage a hard conversation but didn’t have the tools or understanding of how to do this. It was new to them, and to me, so we all found it a bit challenging.”

Patience really helped with starting a conversation and Sophie says it is important to ask twice if people are all right, as usually the first response will be ‘fine’.

She said: “You can’t push someone in to talking when they aren’t ready to open up, give them space and time to talk. Usually someone will move on to something else, instead ask again and reassure them it’s okay to talk. It can be little encouragement like that that can start a conversation.

“Everyone tends to think they are a good listener, I did myself until I learned what it was to be a quiet and let someone speak. Everyone is usually focusing on what they are going to say next, rather than stopping and listening. We are all so keen to fill the silences but the best thing can be to stop, wait a minute and really listen to that other person.”

Tips including checking in with people by sending a simple message like ‘thinking of you’, which can be a lifeline to someone struggling.

Sophie said: “It is nice to know that someone cares when you are feeling low. Also going out for a walk and talk can be helpful, it can be less intense rather than sitting opposite someone, a positive change of scenery and it can be a mood lifter to exercise and get some fresh air.

“I think this book is going to have such a positive impact on helping people to support someone who may be struggling. There is another book out there like it and to have real life stories, interviews with professionals and chats with Samaritans volunteers is really vital first-hand knowledge to be reading.”