What is Active Listening?
Active listening is probably the greatest skill a person can have in their quest for healing. It plays a significant part in almost all healing therapies. The art of active listening has changed my life in many ways. All of my professional, intimate, and friendship based relationships have benefited immensely. I use it daily when I am seeking to understand what is going on in my inner world. Developing the skill of active listening is absolutely necessary if a person wants to use healing tools effectively. Active Listening is LOVE!
L – LISTEN
O – OBSERVE
V – VERIFY
E – EMPATHIZE
*LISTEN – Quiet your own inner dialogue. Restrain from telling your story. Focus your complete attention on the other person or, in the case of yourself, on your inner voice or sub-personality. Listen to the emotion being expressed in their words through the tone of voice and choice of vocabulary. Listen for key words and metaphoric images that may be clues to what underlies the obvious.
*OBSERVE – Pay close attention to body language. Is it congruent with what is being spoken? Hold together the train of thought for the other person and watch for statements separated by minutes to see if they help in going deeper into the issue. Take notice of varying comfort levels with different areas of the conversation. They may hold clues as to where the person or inner voice is heading. Notice their resistance if any and what words or phrases seem to ignite it.
*VERIFY – You may ask a question to clarify the meaning of a certain word or phrase. Often certain keys words mean something unique to the other person or inner voice and are unclear to the active listener. Feeding back what the person has said without interrupting helps let them know you have heard what they have said. This will allow them to move to a deeper level of the issue. The person can let go of where they are once it has been witnessed. It also is a chance for the person to make connections they may have not notice in the immediacy of talking. Do not mimic the other person; simply give concise feedback of what you have heard. The other person or inner voice now has a chance to correct you if what you heard is not what they meant.
*EMPATHIZE – Seek to understand the other person. To truly have empathy for another person or a sub-personality with a dysfunctional behavior can be a challenge in active listening. What has helped me is to recognize that when I am speaking with any immature sub-personality I am talking to a little child. If I see a child in pain my heart immediately opens and wants to help. That is exactly what we have an opportunity to do while active listening. So listen with both your mind and your heart.
What Active Listening is NOT:
*ASKING WHY? – This statement usually takes a person out of their feelings and puts them in their head. The doorway to sub-personalities is through the emotions so the last thing I want to do is take them out of them. Use, “What was happening just before the (traumatic event).”
*GIVING ADVICE – I want to mentor and support another person or sub-personality, not tell them what to do. This is their journey of discovery. I am being arrogant if I think I have the answer to their dilemma. Healing and empowerment come from knowing I can find the answers within myself and not have to depend on another.
*SHARING – Sharing my story interrupts the other person’s decent into their issue. It can confuse them and usually reflects my desire to take the spotlight away from the other person. Even if all I am doing is identifying with their struggle, my sharing is about me not them.
*NEGATING – How dare I make light of or belittle someone else’s or even an inner part of mine’s emotions. It will stop the other person in their tracks. I have made the conversation unsafe.
*JUDGING – To sit in judgment of another is also arrogant and suffocating to the other person journey of self-discovery. If it will add clarity, use a phrase like, “How did that work for you? Or what was that like for you?”
*RESCUE – Do not attempt to rescue the other person by trying to talk them out of feeling a certain way. When the other person reveals that they hate the way they look do not tell them that you think they look great. The other person is exploring their feelings to get to the core of the issue. It is important to feel the emotions behind the statement. This allows them to go deeper.
*PROJECTING – Do not put words in their mouth. Do not guess what they might be feeling. This will only confuse them and is more a statement about you than them.
*DIAGNOSING – It is not my job to figure out what is the cause of their feelings—i.e. they say, “I feel so helpless.” Then you say, “I bet you were abused as a child.”
*FIXING – Do not offer to intercede for them in a conflict with another person—“I will talk to your boss for you.”
*CONSOLING/TOUCHING – Touching a person in the midst of an emotional release will take them out of their feelings. It may be okay after they have finished their work. Always ask for permission.
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