The Art of Active Listening

The Art of Active Listening
As part of our recent Associates Away Day delivered by Katherine Brown – Founding Director of Beauty and Utility Arts (a Leicestershire based social enterprise working with older people. …… you can read all the good work we do here…) we were given a presentation on Active Listening by Rob Hunter Chair of Leicester Ageing Together.

I found it incredibly valuable both professionally and on a personal level and really wanted to share this experience.

Rob began by saying that all of us need to be heard and really listened to, going on to explain what makes a good listener & a bad one and how we can all be better listeners.

A good listener
• Focuses on the person speaking
• Acknowledges and affirms
• Allows for silence & thinking time
• Really listens to what is actually being said
• Doesn’t offer advice
• Asks open questions
• Doesn’t judge
• Uses good body language and good eye contact
• Listens more than talks
• Uses empathy

A bad listener
• Appears distracted
• Interrupts
• Is task orientated
• Asks closed questions

He also explained the differences between men and women in regard to their listening – Women just want to be heard and don’t necessarily want their problem solved whereas Men just want to solve the problem. Made so much sense to me!

In pairs we undertook a role play where one of us had to listen & not speak whilst the other discussed a problem they were having issues with. I listened to my colleague and smiled and nodded – it was very hard not to interject with a “oh that happened to me….or I know …” but the more my colleague spoke the more I listened and she was able to – in her own way resolve the issue she was working through. I wonder if had I interjected – would she have come up with the solution herself?

Heres a useful link I came across on Mindful Listening... that you might find interesting.

As a writer I find people’s stories and what they have to say so thought-provoking, so taking on board my active listening guidance I’ve listened and learnt a lot more when delivering my writing for wellbeing sessions. For example… a woman in a recent workshop spoke of her dreams of buying a static caravan, another participant spoke of flying to Costa Rica for the holiday of a lifetime, another talked of returning from years in Spain, and another of their time as a gardener – naming all the flowers he loved…. By listening more I was given momentary glimpses into these people’s lives. I find it so interesting what people share, when they are allowed to speak and be heard.
So listen more – you never know what you might hear.