Listening - is key to inclusion
Who needs to be listened to? Surely, we ALL do?
We need to listen very closely to what people say or do as people’s actions and words are communications and may carry meanings that are not always obvious unless we listen really well. - Lovett, 1996.
Listening to families
Some families tell us their child was welcomed to a new setting or activity, but when it got hard it felt to them that the adults stopped listening.
Listening to children and young people
Listening is also crucial for all practitioners working with children and young people of all ages especially when tackling issues involving challenging behaviour in more restorative ways.
Many children and young people let us know only too clearly: ‘No one listens to me!’ The older they get the louder this message!
Young people with no spoken words can still let us know when they do not feel listened to.
Listening to groups
When working with groups of all sizes around an individual or working as a diverse group to achieve outcomes, listening will always be key.
Exploring listening activities
Listening activities designed to deepen listening can help set a tone but also strengthen the connections between those present. This can be done by starting with the simplest activity of listening uninterrupted for one minute, using activities designed to encourage deeper listening skills of reflecting back, summarising and the use of open-ended questions.
During person centred processes, such as the MAP or PATH processes (Pearpoint, J. Forest, M. and Snow, J., 1993) it is essential to emphasise the importance of ‘respectful’ listening.
The various processes that can be used to repair harm demand certain skills of facilitators. These include active, empathic listening, impartiality and an ability to empower others to come up with their own solutions to problems. - Tinker, 2005.
Great listening often delivers empathy, which in its own right can improve relationships, deepen understanding and create healthy behaviour change.
I notice that empathy is a key ingredient in any successful restorative conference. When the parties learn about the weaknesses and humanness of those who have previously been offenders, opponents or competitors, there is often a kind of catharsis. People can forgive a lot, when they understand how something came to happen. - Drewery, 2008.
- An indication of real listening. ‘You have heard what I am saying because you have repeated it.’ Many therapists have argued that to be really listened to like this can actually bring about personal growth and change with no other intervention being present.
- When a facilitator reflects back during person centred planning time is gained and a repeat of the contribution is made for a graphic facilitator to hear better and translate into key words or graphics.
These processes help whoever is present to hear and reflect upon what has just been said.
Reflecting back on what you have heard is helpful - ‘have I got it right?’ - ‘Was that it?’
If the speaker has said a lot you will inevitably need to paraphrase what you have heard. However it is essential to respectfully stay with the person’s own words and not substitute your own. By ‘psychologising’ other people’s words with your own you will only create distance and break the connection that is being made with the speaker.
We all have the power to listen to voices that are seldom heard. If we choose to make the time, to learn to listen and to struggle with the pain and frustration that disempowered people feel, we will see new visions, feel new energy, and find hope in our future. There is power in the powerless. We can be catalysts, or encrusted residue. The choice is ours. - Pearpoint,1993.
Things to beware of with your approach
Some people are not comfortable with intense listening and this needs to be respected. Some people do not like being ‘put on the spot‘ and may easily feel judged by an empathic listener so it is important to consider what the right approach is based on the individual or group.