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Do you know somebody experiencing a hard time?

Here are 10 lines of Enquiry.



We sometimes find ourselves in an awkward situation. A person starts to talk to us about their difficulties. She or he relates to us their story, the issues and concerns, as well as the painful feelings and thoughts.


Perhaps we feel uncertain how to respond. We might not know what to say or what to ask.


Here are 10 lines of inquiry. You could consider applying one or more which might prove to be supportive and helpful for the person. It is worthwhile to take note of these lines of enquiry for future meetings. You might even find other considerations as well.


People experiencing a hard time appreciate very much being listened to with empathy and to feel understood.


To listen with empathy does not mean you have to bring in your own personal struggles. You may share your story but that may not help the person who is experiencing a hard time.

Empathy is a genuine interest and concern with the situation and the plight, of another. A loving enquiry confirms empathy.


Ten Lines of Enquiry


1. Turn off your mobile phone. Listen with total attention. Ask the person to expand on particular points as they speak and ask for more points when appropriate.


2.Ask as many questions as possible in a polite, curious way keeping your questions to elicit many details.


3. Ask questions that are short, to the point and easy for the listener to comprehend. Remember not to give advice unasked for. He or she may have thought long and hard about such advice already. Only consider giving advice when you feel you have a complete picture.


4. Ask questions that emphasise the present situation. Time. Place. People. Difficult periods.


5.Ask questions about the conditions that led up to the present situation.


6. If the person tends to speak in generalities, then quietly ask for the details and specifics.


7. Ask questions about feelings, emotions, likes and dislikes, fear and blame, stress and worry.


8. Ask questions about intentions, motives and attitude of the person speaking to you. Ask how they see others intentions, motives and attitudes, if others are involved.


9. Find out if any progress has been made since the issue first arose. What steps has the person taken in the past? What were the consequences?


10. What actions would be helpful, and perhaps necessary, to initiate?


You may then wish to check with the person if he or she would like to hear possible solutions.


The person may need further support at a later date. Try to be available. You may need to set the amount of time beforehand. The person experiencing a hard time may come to their own insights through your willingness to engage in a caring enquiry with her or him.


If you feel the person’s issue is out of your depth, then suggest to the person to find somebody with the necessary skills or give support to finding a wise counsellor.


We may wish to bring the 10 lines of enquiry to ourselves as well.


May all beings live with empathy

May all beings live with loving kindness

May all beings with clarity of heart and mind

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