5/30/2020 1 Comment
A Commitment to Listen
I have felt a hesitancy to add my voice to this moment. I have doubted the relevance of what a middle class white woman living in Canada has to say in this moment. I also am the mother of a bi-racial son. And so half of whom I call family are white and half are black.
I heard the early calls in the early hours after George Floyd’s death for white folks to talk less and listen more. And so I have been listening. Silently listening.
And then I realized, having just finished teaching a 35 hour course in Collaborative Practice (a consensus building process for families separating and divorcing) that silently listening is not enough.
One of the cornerstones of any consensus building process whether it be mediation or collaborative practice, is active listening. Listening is not good enough if the person speaking doesn’t feel heard. And so, when we teach collaborative practice and mediation, we teach active listening. We teach things like looking someone in the eye, leaning in, and nodding in understanding (not necessarily in agreement). We teach full bodied presence and attention that says, ‘you have the floor,’ and ‘I’m all ears.’ We teach basic stuff like turning off our phones, and removing all distractions. We teach the important of time and space for important and difficult conversations and the value of patience. And we teach stuff like mirroring, where we simply say back to the person speaking, ‘What I’ve heard you say is . . .’ and just as importantly, we teach listeners to then check in, ‘Have I got that right?’ And we teach open ended curious questions like, ‘I’m confused about that, can you try again?’ and the all important question, “Is there anything else you would like to tell me?” and “Do you feel like I get you now?” And we teach encouraging statements like, ‘Tell me more.’
And so what I have to offer at this moment is a commitment to actively listen, to mirror back what I think I am hearing and to check in whether I have it right, to try again if I get it wrong and to keep listening. In time, my commitment will transition from listening to something more. In this moment, I will listen.
6/2/2020 10:07:04 am
Thank-you, Deborah. Listening to understand. And finding ways to be actively silent. So much to learn.
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