Oliff’s Life

Richard Oliff talks about the vital role played by people who are prepared to listen
Richard Oliff talks about the vital role played by people who are prepared to listen

I want to pay tribute this week to the army of people, some voluntary, some paid, who have been trained to the highest possible standards in ‘listening’ without giving opinion or openly judging in any way.

The work they do goes largely unnoticed until, either through desperation, sadness, depression or even a requirement for behavioural adjustment we, you or me, need to openly confide our inner nadir or conflict to a complete stranger.

I include in this ‘nod’ those unseen yet remarkable people that take a deep breath before picking up the phone at the Samaritans.

Others too provide a free and invaluable service as they calm the financially desperate as the wolves of debt encircle every aspect of a waking life: the Consumer Credit Counselling Service.

They are all there for those times in life when the proverbial rug is pulled out from under one’s feet at the drop of a hat: often instantly, without warning, opening doors to desperation, bewilderment, isolation, inadequacy and futility.

Some professions have the knack of including some of these empathetic standards within their daily lives, routinely adopting such skills over and above the call of duty.

Doctors, nurses, paramedics, firefighters and the police; all come into contact on a daily basis with the mental fallout that can beset any of us at any time. As you read this thousands of such ‘counselling’ conversations are taking place.

The key to writing anything is always to draw on one’s personal experience and, having had an intimate knowledge of all of the above, I can honestly say that if it were not for at least two of such counselling experiences I would not be here today.

My life would have ended. Not because of peritonitis or pneumonia, but because of darker forces deep inside the mind that were determined to conspire against me.