Prerequisites:

  • You have received a cancer diagnosis;
  • Your treatments have been completed for at least a year;
  • You have listening skills;
  • You have a desire to help, support, bring hope in complete confidentiality, with respect for individual differences;
  • You have good telephone communication skills;
  • You are available and can be consistent over a relatively long period of time.
  • You are open to the expectations of the Quebec Cancer Foundation:
  • You are available for an interview with the coordinator for telephone peer support;
  • You are available for training and individual support;
  • You respect the instructions and ethical values of the organization;
  • You can maintain the confidentiality required for exchanges in connection with telephone peer support.

Do you have the temperament of a listener? (True or False)

  1. Respect for the life choices of a person is a plus for listening even if I am convinced that he or she is wrong.
    TRUE. The challenge of listening involves respecting the person whatever their life choices. Active listening consists in focusing on the person by letting go of our own presuppositions or values, by an empty slate approach. When confronted with ideas or values which do not match our own, if we find it impossible to temporarily ignore or set them aside, referring the person to someone who will be better able to respond to their needs would be a wise move.
  2. When I am listening to a person, it is best to reduce as much as possible those periods of silence.
    FALSE. Those periods of silence are part of the communication and are important moments. Silence can be eloquent and does not arrive by chance. The person is, perhaps, preparing to reveal something important. We can let our presence be felt: “I’m here!,” “Are you alright?,” but without forcing the issue. Silence is often perceived or experienced as embarrassing. As the support person, being at ease with those periods of silence can prove to be another challenge.
  3. The more I sympathsize with the person when I am listening, the more I am able to enter his or her emotional world.
    FALSE. Contrary to empathy, sympathy is an interior attitude through which we experience the same feelings as another person about the same situation but without detachment. Empathy consists in entering the other’s world and feelings, accepting the intensity of the emotion they are experiencing and stepping, for a moment, into their shoes without, however, being overwhelmed by it all.
  4. The better I know someone, the more I am capable of truly listening.
    FALSE. Knowing a person very well has not proven to be a necessary criterion for being a good listener. It is only necessary to be attentive to what they are sharing in the present moment. At times, it may even be more difficult to really listen to a person we know well because of the risk of becoming subjective and emotional.
  5. Finishing someone’s sentence is a good way to let them feel that I understand.
    FALSE. That does not respect his or her rhythm and may harm their willingness to open up. Perhaps they are about to reveal something important to us and by interrupting, we might upset them.
  6. Pitying a person is a good way to let them feel I understand them.
    FALSE. Pitying someone reinforces their perception that they are a victim and may affect the situation negatively. We can be supportive and encouraging without showing pity. Pity shows the person that we don’t have confidence in their abilities, that we see their situation as hopeless.
  7. Women have, by nature, a better ability to listen than men.
    FALSE. Believing this is wrong, since active listening has nothing to do with gender and is certainly not innate! Listening to someone who needs help is an art and can be learned. While we may have listening skills, we must develop them, whether we are male or female.
  8. When I am listening to a person, I must consider my own limits.
    TRUE. It is important to listen and to set our limits. If we do not, we risk fatigue and we are not entirely in sync with ourselves or with the other person. Respecting others begins with respecting ourselves. For example, if a friend phones you because she needs to be listened to and you have an appointment in 30 minutes, you should tell her you have 15 minutes to listen, and beyond that, you won’t be able to fully concentrate because you will be preoccupied by your plans.
  9. When I listen to someone, it helps clarify issues if he or she asks me how I solved a similar problem.
    FALSE. Naturally and in good faith, we often feel led to give advice thinking it will help; however, what is good for us will not necessarily be good for another person. Each one has their own potential and our role is to foster awareness in the other person of the tools they have and to help them sort through their issues based on their resources and past experiences.
  10. Certain people are not capable of making choices in life; for them it is preferable to give them insightful counsel so that they are less likely to sink further under the weight of their own problems.
    FALSE. Each individual has their own strengths and potential. The role of the listener is to assist the person to find solutions that suit them by mirroring to them their own emotions, by reformulating for them what they are trying to express while respecting their rhythm. On the other hand, if the situation should take on a suicidal bent, we must be more directive and see that the person benefits from all the needed resources.
Source :
Association des centres d'écoute téléphonique du Québec. Translated from Possédez-vous la fibre d'un écoutant(e)?

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