ListenNorfolk's workplace chaplains are there to listen

Jill Mayes, the Project Coordinator for Good Work, remembers learning the value of listening from a gifted Norfolk chaplain who offered a listening ear to strangers in a city centre coffee shop.  

I’m a talker. In fact, as a former teacher, I used to get paid to talk…the perfect job! Seriously though, many polls have revealed that one of the greatest needs people in this generation is to be heard.  

Sometimes the only ‘medicine’ a person needs is a sympathetic ear, someone who remains present in the conversation without being diverted by a mobile phone, a TV or a newspaper. Listening, real listening, can create a sense of worth and value for the speaker. The act of saying things aloud often helps us to gain a new perspective and, if the listener is skilled, carefully phrased comments – not opinions – might unlock solutions we hadn’t ever thought about. At a minimum, getting things ‘off our chest’ can be cathartic: at best, we might be pointed towards practical help that begins to resolve a painful situation.

One of the most important features of chaplaincy is the ability to listen well. Lots of chaplains, both ordained and lay people, undertake training, specifically to help them develop and hone these skills.

I’ve had the privilege to learn from a very gifted city-centre chaplain, who used to sit in a national chain of coffee shops with his drink and, with prior permission, place a sign saying ‘I will listen’ on the table. The response was overwhelming; the lonely, the worried, the curious, the cynical sat down beside him.

You’ve probably heard the adage, “we were given 1 mouth and 2 ears to listen twice as much as we speak.”

What kind of listener are you? Do you remain focused when someone is speaking to you, or do you drift off?

Maybe you’d like to become a better listener? Click here to access some free online training from the Samaritans, a group of amazing people who listen every day.

Happy learning!

Jill Mayes is the Good Work Project Coordinator. If you would like to find out more about workplace chaplaincy get in touch with Jill by email at

Published: 04/12/2018