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Winter 2008 Rapport: From the Leadership Files

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The art of listening


Dr. Angela Reid (M.A. 2000)
is assistant professor of counseling psychology at AGTS.

As a counselor, the deliberate act of listening tells my client that he is worth knowing, his experiences are worth sharing, and his thoughts have important meaning. The same would hold true if I were listening to my spouse or a friend.

Here are five specific ways to brush up on your listening skills.

  1. Listen to and with the body. Consider your own body language. Listening with your body in an open posture, arms open, legs uncrossed and with your body facing toward the person nonverbally conveys your interest and attention. Eye contact, nods of the head and verbal prompts such as, “I see,” may also be helpful if culturally appropriate. Consider also the other person’s body language. What is she telling you with her posture, eyes and countenance?

  2. Listen to the context. The environment a person lives, works and plays in can contribute to your understanding of his current circumstances.

  3. Listen with the third ear. What is not said can convey volumes. Listen to what is being left out of the conversation, what may be skipped over or what may be implied. If appropriate, gently inquire about these areas to gain a more complete understanding.

  4. Listen with reflection. You can provide a mirror to reflect how the other person is feeling. Rephrasing what you have heard helps her feel heard and may provide opportunity for her to gain deeper personal insight. For example, “It sounds like you are frustrated that your friend did this, and you wish something else would have happened.”

  5. Listen without an agenda. It is difficult to convey genuine interest in another person if you’re focusing more on what you will say next than on what the other person is saying. To be fully present in the moment is to be free from an unspoken agenda that seeks to meet your own need rather than the speaker’s need.

Listening for the sole purpose of connecting, affirming and coexperiencing life can be a powerful blessing. Among other things, true listening involves many of the characteristics mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13: patience, kindness and excitement for the truth. Listeners do not behave jealously, arrogantly, unbecomingly, selfishly, vengefully nor with anger. When you’re listening, you are demonstrating Christ’s love.

Updated: Monday, December 10, 2007 3:47 PM

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