‘SHUSH’ is an acronym used by volunteers at the listening charity, Samaritans, to remind themselves of the key qualities involved in listening to people they support on the phone properly. The Samaritans are well known for their great listening abilities and understanding ‘SHUSH’ can help us learn from what they do really well. The aim of this training activity is for the participants to be able to identify what ‘SHUSH’ looks like in practice. A previous activity would have helped the participants understand what ‘SHUSH’ is. You can access that activity here.


After going through this activity, participants will be able to identify how to use ‘SHUSH’ for effective listening.



The aim of this section is to help the participants see what ‘SHUSH’ listening looks like in practice. To do this, the participants will take part in two demonstrations. You (the facilitator) will be the listener in both demonstrations. The first one will demonstrate poor listening and the second demonstration will show better listening using some of the ‘SHUSH’ behaviours. You will need a volunteer from the group to be the speaker you listen to in both conversations.

Tell them that:

  • Now that we know what ‘SHUSH’ listening is, let’s see what it looks like in practice.
  • We are going to do two demonstrations that show what is or isn’t ‘SHUSH’ listening.
  • Please, we need a volunteer to play the role of the person speaking in both demonstrations while I play the role of the listener.

Ask for a volunteer and thank the person who volunteers. Then direct everyone to the part of their workbooks titled – ‘SHUSH’ IN PRACTICE.

Display all the information needed for the demonstrations on the screen and go through it with them. Show them all the parts of the workbook that will be used for the demonstrations which include,

  • First conversation
  • Space for observer’s notes – first conversation
  • Second conversation
  • Space for observer’s notes – second conversation

After that, clarify that they understand what is going to happen. Then move on to do the first demonstration.

While doing it, tell everyone except you and the volunteer to put off their cameras. This will make the volunteer feel more comfortable as they won’t see anyone looking at them.

Both of you should then go through the script for the first conversation.

After you finish the demonstration, they should put their cameras back on.

Ask the observers for feedback. What you want them to tell you is how Helen used or did not use ‘SHUSH’ skills.

After listening to the observers, ask the volunteer whether they agree with the observers and listen to the volunteer’s views too.

When you finish, move on to have the second conversation and do exactly what you did for the first conversation.

After the second conversation, ask for feedback in the same way that you did for the first conversation. This time they should identify that Helen used some of the ‘SHUSH’ skills. Below are some of the ‘SHUSH’ skills that Helen used which they should have identified (Depending on their feedback you may decide to share this information with them).

  • Show you care (noticing Jermaine’s body language and asking him a question, taking Jermaine to her office for a conversation, giving Jermaine her attention)
  • Have patience (using pauses and silence, not interrupting, not giving up after he said, ‘he’s fine’)
  • Using open (and other types of) questions (Helen used a combination of open, closed and reflective questions. The reflective questions reflected what Jermaine said):
    • What’s wrong with your daughter? – open question
    • Is there any way I can help or support you with this? – can be either an open or closed question depending on how Jermaine responds.
    • So, taking some time off may help you? – reflective question
    • Oh, Angie’s struggling with it too and she’s handling it even worse than you are?’ – reflective question.
    • Do you want me to book some time off for you now? – closed question?
    • Is there any other way I can help? – can be either an open or closed question depending on how Jermaine responds.
  • Say it back (Helen used reflective questions to say back what Jermaine told her. She also used phrases like, ‘your daughter’ and ‘that must be hard for you’ to reflect back feelings and what she heard Jermaine say’)
  • Have courage (Helen demonstrated courage by not letting go of her concerns and having the conversation with Jermaine. Phrases like ‘that must be hard for you’ showed she was willing to connect with how Jermaine was feeling)

After that, ask them for any comments and/or questions they have. Listen to them and respond if necessary.

Thank them again for their participation in the activity and end the session.

This is the end of the session.

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