USE* Calls the Samaritans for Help with Active Listening

What is refreshing with USE* is that their commitment to supporting their team is a genuine intent that really does lead to action when somebody in their community needs help. USE* are not simply paying lip service when it comes to active listening and support for their team.

Penny Moseley, former Director for Training, Crawley and Horsham Samaritans
Since its inception, USE* (formerly UK Service Evolution) has recognised that clear, concise communication is essential for building good and supportive relationships with customers, with work colleagues, and elsewhere. Our training programme with Crawley and Horsham Samaritans is a key aspect of ensuring that we are aligned to this vision across our entire team.

The Challenge

The challenge, however, is less providing the opportunity for our team members to speak or to be listened to, but rather in helping to understand how to listen. Especially since, as a part of the USE* philosophy of care and support for our team, we also recognise that no one feels great all the time, that it is normal to feel low sometimes, and that at a result listening – or feeling comfortable being listened to – may not be an easy proposition.

ince part of our vision is to equip our personnel to communicate superlatively, and to feel confident in dealing with situations of confrontation, negotiation, stress and emotional duress by contributing to our supportive and sympathetic USE* community, the question of how we can achieve this has been a key consideration.

The Solution

Active Listening skills compose a series of techniques that empower the individual to better understand and control the flow and subject matter of a conversation.

These skills are utilised ethically and practiced par excellence by the UK Samaritans charity (who also have an international presence as Befrienders Worldwide).

Samaritans offers confidential emotional support for anyone in a situation of difficulty or crisis. This support is available on a 24-hours per day, 365-days per year, basis. Volunteers offer support by responding to phone calls, emails and letters, and also provide support in the form of walk in face-to-face meetings in Samaritan branches found in most towns throughout the UK and Ireland. Callers to the Samaritans are often struggling with difficulties such as relationship and family problems, loss (including loss of a job, or of a friend or a family member through bereavement), financial worries, or work-related stress.

Most challenging, and most fundamental, to the support offered by the Samaritans is that it is both non-judgemental and non-advisory. The Samaritans’ support instead focuses on constructive listening - which is very much dependent on active listening skills - that will help the caller get a different perspective on the motivation for their call. Not infrequently callers to the Samaritans are considering suicide as a means for exit from their circumstances, and Samaritan volunteers’ training particularly emphasises helping callers challenge their own assumptions and consider alternatives to this course of action.

The link between our team at USE* and the Samaritans came about because, going back as far as the early 1990s, members of our team have worked or do work as volunteer Samaritans. In fact, the USE* ethos of our team members each acting as a resource to support their colleagues copies the Samaritans’ own model for volunteer-to-volunteer support. While more usual commercially-oriented provision of active listening training is available, we knew that the most rigorous training for and application of these skills occurs on a day-to-day basis in the Samaritans organisation. In addition, we wanted our training to reflect our business vision and emphasise the application of active listening skills as a basis for emotional support as well as in situations of team management or commercial negotiation.
So the solution for USE* has been to work with Crawley and Horsham Samaritans for the provision of Active Listening and Stress Management training since 2008, completing our most recent programme in September 2009.


The Samaritans’ training for USE* crystallises active listening skills by covering aspects of how we engage in conversations to reveal habits that need to be avoided - and techniques that can be applied - in a context where active listening is really a requirement.

For example, asking open questions allows the third party to communicate in an unhindered fashion, and often allows her or him the conversational space to express feelings or ideas that might otherwise be excluded in the typical to-and-fro of everyday conversation (or which he or she might generally be reluctant to express). At the same time, confining one’s input to questions keeps the freedom and focus of expression on the third party, but leaves the active listener in a position to direct the flow of the conversation.

Time is also spent in role plays and group exercises which allow the trainees to practice their developing active listening competencies in situations such as a one-to-one interview with an apparently moribund work colleague (in reality an opportunity to detect and offer some badly needed emotional support), or acting as a trade union representative in the position of communicating (and justifying) a difficult decision to the union membership.

In addition, a section of the course is also devoted to stress: showing the team how to identify symptoms of stress in oneself and in others, and what to do about it when you become aware that you or a colleague are suffering from it. Working to ameliorate stress covers the kind of advice that would be offered by any psychologist, doctor or stress specialist - such as eating healthily, getting plenty of sleep, or taking exercise - but also allows USE* to emphasise to our team that support is available in the context of our own internal organisation and culture.

Our Achievements

At USE* we see our training programme with the Samaritans as a fundamental component in answering to and fulfilling our holistic cultural and corporate agenda - seeing our employees and customers as human beings to whom we owe a duty of care as well as a duty of professional responsibility, and being seen as a caring and sincere organisation and team.

This training and our USE* ethos are a hand-in-glove fit, and many of our team find the Samaritans training to be inspirational. As well as delivering skills to our personnel that are both practical and applicable in a wide variety of different circumstances, this training also serves to convey our message of a supporting culture an infrastructure in USE* to our team. As a result, our staff are more likely to come forward and communicate where there are workplace or ex-workplace issues that USE* as a company can help with, including dealing with overworking or stress. Once they have undertaken this training, our staff are better-equipped to support each other and our customers’ in the workplace.

From a commercial perspective these factors pay dividends in terms of the enthusiasm and motivation of our staff, and this in turn translates into direct productivity and quality benefits for our customers. But beyond that, the most gratifying aspect of our success is that in USE* we are fulfilling a dream in running our business in a way that is respectful to our team - which is in the way USE* feels a business should be run - and that the results of this are apparent to and appreciated by our customers.

Related Information

You can talk to Samaritans at any time of the day or night. Common reasons to call Samaritans are:

  • relationship and family problems;
  • loss, including loss of a job, a friend or a family member through bereavement;
  • financial worries;
  • job-related stress or overwork;
  • college or study related stress; or
  • body image issues

Volunteers offer support by responding to phone calls, emails and letters. Alternatively, you can often drop in to a branch to have a face to face meeting:

  • to telephone call 08457 909090 in the UK; or 1850 609090 in the Republic of Ireland (or, if you live outside of the UK or Republic or Ireland, or wish to use a language other than English, please visit to find your nearest helpline);
  • to e-mail, write to;
  • to send a letter, write to ‘Chris, P.O. Box 90 90, Stirling, FK8 2SA’: in the Republic or Ireland you can also write to your local branch; or
  • for the UK or the Republic or Ireland find your local branch at

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