Friday, August 23, 2013

Conversation #5 ~ When have I experienced good listening? (pp. 90-97)

It's almost like this cartoonist has read page 92 of Turning to One Another, where Meg Wheatley wrote:
"I don't need you to fix me.  I just need you to listen to me."
In 1982, I designed a communications skills program for Chattanooga State, which included active listening.  To do active listening means that you, the listener, should be able to say to the speaker in your own words (by re-stating or paraphrasing) what the speaker said — and do it to that person's satisfaction.  This does not mean that you agree with the person, but rather that you understand what he or she is saying.  It's surprising how little we listen to each other.

Forgive Me, a 2007 novel by Amanda Eyre Ward, is set in Cape Town, South Africa, during the time of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee meetings.  Reading that book was the first time I had really understood what took place in those meetings.  Meg Wheatley included these meetings in our book, on page 93:
"During the Truth and Reconciliation Commission meetings in South Africa, many of those who testified to the atrocities they had endured under apartheid would speak of being healed by their own testimony.  They knew that many people were listening to their story."
Panorama from the top of Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa (click to enlarge)
That doesn't seem possible, does it?  In the TRC meetings, people could talk to each other, knowing those who perpetuated the crimes would NOT be punished.  So it was strictly the telling, hearing, and healing that mattered.  And yet it was a time of healing.  Wheatley continues, with a story about one person:
One young man who had been blinded when a policeman shot him in the face at close range said:  "I feel what ... has brought my eyesight back is to come here and tell the story.  I feel what has been making me sick all the time is the fact that I couldn't tell my story.  But now ... it feels like I've got my sight back by coming here and telling you the story."
I have to add one more example of the power of good listening.  Antoinette Tuff, bookkeeper at McNair Learning Academy in Decatur, Georgia (outside Atlanta), was calm and compassionate with the angry young man wanting to die and take cops and children and teachers with him.  She listened, and she was able to talk him out of it, saving not only herself and the school people, but also the young man himself.  The whole world experienced "good listening" in the news this week, thanks to this brave hero, who admits she was terrified.

How would you answer Wheatley's question, "When have I experienced good listening?"


Zorro said...

Wonderful introductory stories, Bonnie!

I experienced good listen by friends who helped me heal after my son was killed in a car wreck in 1984. I don't remember who all listened. But I do remember that I needed listeners who did not offer anything but listening. No platitudes, no spoken sympathy, no advise, just listening.

Shirley said...

That is good that you were able to find good listeners, Mary, when you needed them. Too many people when they "mean well" offer "comfort" that isn't. One that I remember assured me that I do have two other children. I do, but I wanted to keep all three of my children.

I have probably been just as guilty of trying to comfort rather than providing the needed ear, but I do try to let the grief-stricken person share their feelings.

AuntyDon said...

The best kind of listening is that which does not interrupt or "advise." I think a hand held or kept eye contact is the most healing. I have been known to hug my 1st- or onetime- customers when they have sad stories to tell. I always ask them if I can pray for their situation; I've never been refused.

I find that silence usually let's me know when I have said too much, and when I have put too much of my story in the "conversation."