Building Nova Earth: Toward A World That Works for Everyone

Are You Listening?

Are You Listening?

Restorative Listening from Upset to Release

A Dictionary on Listening

by Steve Beckow

Four Language Modes

We use language in four ways:

To read
To write
To speak
To listen.

What is Listening?

Listening involves (1) entering into a relationship of communication with another, (2) being aware of their words and other expressive symbols, and (3) taking in and understanding the message they wish to communicate.

What is the true object of listening? Understanding another. Entering into relationship is the pre-requisite to listening. Being aware of their full communication is the sine qua non of listening. Understanding is the desired result.

Listening

To listen means to understand another’s spoken communication in its entirety. It means to be able to comprehend completely, without misunderstanding.

To listen means paying attention to someone’s communication with the intention of understanding completely that person’s expressed message and experience.

Most of us listened before we learned to speak. Listening therefore is prior to speaking, whether we refer to a baby who does not understand language or to a foreigner who does not understand a certain language.

To do this, the listener should reply back to the speaker, in the speaker’s own words if necessary, what the speaker has said. The process is fool-proof in the sense that, if the listener has heard inaccurately, the speaker will correct him. The listener is never wrong; he only misunderstands.

The speaker at the same time should aim for reaching deeply inside and expressing clearly and certainly what is there to be communicated. Usually, speakers communicate in “chapter headings.” That is, their initial statement tells the subject they’d like to communicate on and must be unwrapped or unbundled.

Whether for personal or professional purposes, everyone could afford to improve his or her listening skills.

Notice all the courses on public speaking. Have you ever seen one on public listening? You’ve probably attended courses in communication skills, but how many of them had a listening component? There are chapters in books on the transmission of coded linguistic messages but not on the receiving and deciphering of them. As a society we have basically ignored listening as a social activity. We are a society fixated on the powerof the lips and ignorant of the power of the ear. We have ways of speaking about language as it is spoken and written, but no way of speaking about language as it is heard.

The Fifty-Minute Hour

The psychotherapist’s fifty-minute hour is deadly for speaking to release. Two-three hours may be needed to get the full picture of an upset.

Types of Listening

Listening for Rapport

Features are acceptance, loyalty, and interest. Joking, kidding, teasing, bonding, building team spirit, creating collegiality, comradeship, making friends. Results are people like you, like being around you, seek you out, want to work with you.

Listening for Intimacy

Sharing, revealing, letting down the barriers, letting down one’s guard. Leads somewhere, often to sexuality. Hurts more and feels better than rapport listening.

Listening for Release

Listening for upset, meaning, causality, an end to tension, relief.

If the office is set up to listen for rapport, and I am a listening for intimacy, I can run into problems.

Restorative Listening (Listening for Release)

The kind of deep, restorative listening I am describing involves successive approximations of the speaker’s truth. The listener himself may not have the full picture throughout the first pass. The listener needs to be prepared to treat the process like the making of a jigsaw puzzle, where one piece has been fitted in the picture while others remain off to the side. At times, the listener may gently bring in a piece of the puzzle that has been identified but not fitted into the picture. This move should be done tentatively, carefully, as a suggestion and should never be forced on the speaker. The speaker’s understanding is what is important, not the listener’s. On the odd occasion, the speaker may experience release and the listener may still be unsure what it was that needed to be communicated. Just the same, the listener should release the speaker from further necessity and allow them to go on their way.

(1) Commited listening acts as a restorative. It helps us untie the knots that bind us and restores us to our original balance and innocence.

Restorative listening is a deep form of listening whose purpose is to release an individual from the limiting or confining influence of an upset, issue, or interpretation. It is different from social listening or intimate listening. Social listening is fun and results in a back-and-forth and give-and-take that promotes enjoyment and cooperation. Intimate listening goes deeply into matters that lets both people’s guard down and reveals them to each other.

An example of an early experience that set up a way of being is the case of a young woman who was trying to understand why she entered into relationships and quickly left. In the course of talking about her early life, she said that she used to walk into the waters of the ocean and get cold feet and quickly walk out. I asked her if she walked into relationships as well and got cold feet and insight and release occurred for her. One has to be quick to catch an interpretation as it is spoken. If I had let that comment pass, the conversation may have moved onto other things and release might have been delayed or might never have happened. My job as a listener was to catch the interpretation and feed it back to her.

Listening is often considered passive when effective listening is anything but. The best listening is very active and can involve quick and deft entries into momentarily-glimpsed openings.

Conventional listening catches only the spoken word. But restorative listening listens well below that, below the upset even, to the deeper self that is crying out to be heard and understood. Restorative listening uses any means and device available to it to get at that deeper speaking. Perhaps the person is dramatizing and the truth of what they are saying is revealed when their message is understated. Perhaps they are understating and the truth emerges when their points are emphasized. What is appropriate to do emerges on a case-by-case basis.

The restorative listener takes in gesture, expression, metaphor, to get below the surface of the upset to the true meaning underneath. Often it hears the inner speaking that the speaker has decided is to dangerous to utter but wants to be divined anyways.

In conventional listening we do the bare minimum. Often we store away what the person said, remembering the words only, and remembering them only for a short time, resolving to take in only what can later be seen to be important, as we judge matters to be. This is listening only in name.

Listening done well relieves people of the need to speak. Speaking is done compulsively until a person has been deeply listened to. Once listen to a person completely and they will settle down and cease speaking compulsively. For some people, being listened to once completely is an utterly new and joyful experience. It is truly a gift whose value is sometimes inestimable.

Listening over a full-enough period of time creates a critical mass of insight that can lead to release.

Perhaps one day, all counsellors will let go of problem-solving and simply listen.

(2) The true test of listening is whether the speaker felt listened to and understood. What we listen to and understand, predominantly, are the speaker’s thoughts and feelings. The listener opens all channels of awareness to receive the message the speaker is intending to convey. Speech, glance, gesture, expression, tonality, pitch, intensity – the listener hears and understands them all. Restorative listening uses any available, workable means to review the whole story of a speaker’s upset, listening until release appears as a smile, an insight, or some other form of relief, shift, or transformation. Restorative listeners may expand a metaphor, re-experience a feeling, hear the whole history of the upset. They may draw on their own native savvy or from formal theories like Neur9olinguistic Programming, Transactional Analysis, or Client-Centred Therapy. However, they bend their approaches not to such acts of speaking as counselling and advising but simply to listening and understanding. The restorative listener knows the power of listening to afford release from upset.

Solving problems is hard. Dis-solving problems is easy. Listening dissolves problems.

Guidelines for Successful Listening

Create a safe, secure environment for speaking, free from interruptions and distractions. Take the phone off the hook. Close the door. Put a sign up saying “Do Not Disturb.” Have enough water, glasses, and kleenex. Visit the washroom beforehand. Have a pad and pencil to make notes for things to do later, rather than getting up and doing them.

If you have made an appointment for restorative listening, avoid making any other appointments that evening. Avoid having to say to your speaker that you must go.

Stay with your listening once begun. Buckle up and go along for the ride. Don’t get up repeatedly or make a phone call. Ask permission if you need to go to the bathroom. Don’t interrupt to ask. Wait until you make a comment and then tack it on.

Be sure you and the speaker have an agreed-upon “contract.” Be sure to have the contract straight before you begin. If you agree not to leave a person until release, then don’t.

Make the other person the number one focus in your life from starting point to release.

Do not take the spotlight off then listener lest you break the spell or destroy their concentration. If you must interrupt, make your interruption short. If you must comment, comment quickly.

Neither interrupt the speaker nor ask questions that break the flow of the narrative. If you positively need to interrupt, ask their permission first and keep it short. Your job is to assist the string of incidents and responses to come out, not to show how wise you are, not to follow your own avenues of investigation, not even to investigate. You are there to see what the message is your speaker wants to convey to you. The speaker usually will not know what that message is, in the beginning. Together you piece it together and then you “get” or understand it. Your job also is to mirror back your understanding, at significant junctures, so that the speaker, who is in the thick of it, can also see what you see. Together, both of you piece the puzzle together until the puzzle becomes am picture.

Identify 100 percent with the speaker. Don’t listen for credibility. Don’t judge the appearance of the self-serving bias. Look underneath the spoken word to the secret speaking that the speaker may not even be aware of. Ask yourself: “If this were me, what would I be wanting to convey? What would I want other people to know most?” Use the information contained in your own answer to guide your further listening. If you come up with an interesting piece of information, on motive or message, confirm with the speaker whether it is applicable to him or her.

Do not set the topic for the speaker to speak on. Let them set the topic. However, expect them to talk about a normal time followed by an upset and then consequences which flowed from the upset. Don’t impose your point of view on the speaker. Just listen with nothing added. Listen to discover the speaker’s point of view and the full picture.

Some speakers speak from ache to ache. First they notice a pain in their neck and talk until it is released. Then they notice their shoulders sagging and talk until the weight has been removed. Then they notice an ache in their heart and talk until that is released. Each ache is the equivalent of a point being made. Allow them to proceed in the manner they wish or are used to.

Listen from the gross to the subtle, the bundled to the unbundled.

Accept whatever they may say as the very next thing to be said, no matter how it sounds to you. Accept that it was constructed as a string and the logic of construction may not be apparent to you and may be as simple as “and then, and then, and then.” Think of their points as being dishes that arrive by a dumbwaiter. One dish arrives, and then another, and then another, with no other logic than linear sequence.

Treat what is said as a series of linked comments. As soon as one comment is finished, look for the next link and draw it out.

Let them take deeper and deeper cuts at their story. For it to be fully told, they may need to take one narrative cut, in which all events are told; one emotional cut, in which their response to events is told; then one contextual cut, in which they shorten it up and see if they understand the whole picture; etc.

Get the emotional truth first and the actual truth later, if necessary.

Build your understanding from the progressive sharing of the speaker. Check out how your developing understanding matches their intention in sharing – ask yourself — and the speaker — if you are on the right track.

Never blame or hassle the speaker. Don’t encounter them or tell them they are full of malarkey. Don’t contest the speaker’s interpretation. Don’t use anything the other says against him (or her). Express no hostility. Put aside your own agenda. Earn the other’s trust and keep it.

Put your own agenda aside. Don’t ask questions that deflect the speaker from his or her train of thought. If you see the slightest sign of resistance, drop your point and go back to the last point of agreement. An exception might be where you think you can catapult them forward by tieing some things together but never do even this in the face of resistance. Be flexible and drop your own point as soon as resistance is encountered. If you get something wrong or space out, acknowledge it and go back to the last point of agreement again.

Keep yourself out of the process. Never try to make a point that arises from or handles your own discomfort. Handle it silently yourself or put it aside. Keep your questions short, devoid of theory, devoid of excuses. Sopeak Peter Rabbit English. Don’t hang the speaker up by using theoretical language or latinate diction. Don’t draw attention to yourself or say something cute or flashy. The whole process should be focussed on the other person.

Never frame a question so that it jerks the other person out of their process by leaving them wondering what you said or where you’re coming from. Be plain and simple. Never say out of the blue something like “Do you hate men?” Say instead “I’m curious to know if events left you hating men.” Accept whatever answer they give you as true. If it is not true in the beginning, when they see your trust in them, they will soon begin to tell the truth.

Never ask a question like, “I don’t mean to imply that you don’t know best for yourself, but could it be that the secret of what was happening lies in what he did after you did what you did?” Ask instead: “What was his reaction?”

Accept that many statements they make will be a mixture of truth and falsity or truth and exaggeration. Hold to that part of what they said that was true. Just go with that and ignore the rest. Or interpret what they say so that the truth is extracted and ask them if your understanding is correct.

Treat the speaker’s message as a jigsaw puzzle which you are determined to reconstruct. Be curious. Make the translation. Crack the code. Supply what’s missing. If the speaker is dramatic and exaggerates, divide by two or ten or whatever factor you need to. If the speaker understates, multiply by two or ten. If the speaker is accurate verbally but ingenuine emotionally, supply the emotional truth, and vice versa. Discover the missing pieces that will turn the puzzle into a picture.

Follow every spoken word. Hear the point that is being made, the point that is being implied, and the point underneath it all. Have the other person see that you see the point that is being made. Do not raise the implied point until the time is right and then, if they ask you how you arrived at that understanding, put it down to a hunch. Do not imply that the speaker is speaking on many levels lest you jam the person into their head instead of leaving them vulnerable and open. Speak to the commitment implied in the point underneath it all. Make it right. Accept it.

Sociologists talk about speakers forming their identity in part on the listener’s reaction to what they are saying. If the listener radiates shame, the speaker may stop and change the subject. If the listener radiates admiration, the speaker may wax more eloquent and expansive.

Therefore, to ensure that the speaker will say whatever is necessary to be said, keep your response neutral. See that you avoid excessive or dramatic responses that will push or pull the speaker away from, what is there to be said naturally. A speaker may cave in in the face of your emotional display. Caving in is not release.

Never rush the process. Watch for their cues as to your own shakiness in listening. They may remove eye contact from you, not because they are involved in a certain mental process, but because you seem restless and they are confused. Or they may feel you are invoking premature closure, and they don’t want to stop. In this case, drop your agenda and return solidly to listening. They will return eye contact as soon as they receive and confirm your indications of steadfastness.

Words indicating closure include “OK.” “Well….” Spoken at the wrong juncture, they can seriously trouble the speaker. Watch their use or else clarify that you were not intending to close the session.

There is a litmus test for whether our listening has been successful: Is the person in release? The truth will set the speaker free. Follow increasing release to the final consummation of freedom from the upset. They will only get at this deep truth in the fact of deep and committed listening.

If in our listening, we stop short of listening, the speaker will fall short of release. It is as if we waited two hours for the fireworks show, listened to the announcer describe the show and the pyrotechnics experts who were going to stage it, and then went home before the fireworks happened. We may leave the person literally aching.

Do not listen past release. Following release, let the speaker simply to end the session and depart. Allow them to be in whatever space they are in. Do not ask for acknowledgment, either directly or indirectly. Leave them with the insights and understandings they have arrived at: that is what you have worked so produce so don’t now bury those fragile insights under excessive talk or self-centred need.

Whatever you do, do not carry the speaker back into the upset by asking for clarification of a certain point or trying to compare the upset with another facet of the person known to you, etc. Let them go. Let them see that release comes from sharing and listening.

If we drive a person back into the original upset with our questions, they may settle back into their original emotional state and forget what they arrived at, so powerful is the trancelike quality of the puzzle.

Second Pass at the same topic

Listen fully and closely, but without rigidity. Full, close listening is one of the best ways to help a person through an upset. As a graduate student, I was used to being with upset people. I saw them come back from the precipice when I listened to three things: (1) the history of the incident, (2) the present-day consequences for the speaker, and (3) how they feel about it all.

Listen until release occurs. An upset may lift at any stage of the conversation – during description of the incident, of the consequences, or of the emotional response to events. A missing piece may suddenly fall in place (“THAT’s why he did it!”). Or the big picture may be seen in its entirety in a moment of insight (“Gosh, I see the WHOLE THING!”). When an upset lifts, I say the person is in release.

I know people are in release when they break into a smile. They may glimpse the missing piece that will put them into release, but not feel able to allow themselves to settle into really acknowledging what they have seen. Often they have just the sheepish trace of a grin. It’s my job to say, “What was that that you just saw?” When they acknowledge it, the grin becomes a broad smile; the secret is out; the conversation is over. The truth, as Jesus said, has made them free.

People in release are flexible, present, alive. People in upset are mechanical, absent, withdrawn. What then is the acid test that listening has worked? The speaker will be in release.

If listeners continue probing past this point, they can send the speaker back into the upset and they can forget the insight that brought them release. It’s better to stop at that moment and allow them to be with what they have seen. Therefore, listen until, but not past, release. Ask, “Was there anything else?” to ensure full listening. If not, close off and let the person return to their life.

The better your listening, the less credit you’ll receive. If you’ve really made a difference, it will show up as totally invisible. The speaker will have the sense of having uncovered everything themselves. Your role will not show up. At best they may thank you for listening. But your true contribution is seldom known.

The best listeners make the process seem effortless, as if a string of words miraculously flowed from the speaker’s mouth, regardless of the fact that they started out with lockjaw. Resist the temptation to be acknowledged by someone in release. Send them on their way, lest you create a new upset.

The best listeners pull the words out with delicacy and finesse in a continuous, steady manner.

Don’t miss a point in the argument. You may have to back the speaker up to make sure that you don’t fail to comprehend a point. But if you allow them to continue while you have missed something, your confusion will shine through and they will feel frustrated. Ask their pardon. Explain why you’ve missed a step. Ask them to repeat it and then allow them to move on.

The listener’s job is to hear and understand every sentence and every word. Confirm your understanding if you’re unclear.

Listen to resistance; then go with it rather than against it. If the person refuses to discuss an obvious aspect of the subject, allow them the space to refuse. If the speaker resists your interpretation, don’t force it upon them. Drop it and drop it completely. Be prepared to stand there not comprehending. Listening is not a place for know-it-alls. It’s a deeply humbling experience.

If you try to sell your interpretation to a resistance speaker, they may close down. Let it go and go back to the last point of agreement and begin again. Watch for the delicate signs of resistance – the clouded brow, slowed-down delivery, drooping shoulders, etc. The discussion needs to be about them, not you. Exception: Occasionally supplying a revealing anecdote about yourself may free them up when they feel too exposed to continue. They may stop and stare at you blankly, too scared to go further out on the skinny branches alone. At that time, you’re showing that you too are willing to be vulnerable and they may need to see you have a stake in the process too before they are willing to continue or to go deeper.

Listen to layers. One may be the speaker’s thoughts; another, their feelings; another, their druthers; and another what REALLY upset them. Listening is often multi-dimensional in real-time. It may be linear; then jump to a synthesis when an insight suddenly arises; then proceed again from a totally-altered standpoint. The listener has to move with the alterations and so must be nimble and unattached in their listening.

Listen to the full score. People communicate in an orchestrated fashion. They put some of the score in words. Some of it is in vocal tone, pitch, looks, gestures, intensity. They may grimace, roll their eyes, weave like a dancer, stab the air. Often we don’t hear the music because we’re simply listening to the words. Good listening means paying attention to the total performance, the full production, the complete score.

Speak a common language. Though we speak English to each other, there is a sense in which we still talk different languages. One person may speak parenting; another, the Wild Country. If one person speaks computerese, speak it back if you can. Talk with byte. Learn the person’s program. Know his or her operating system. If someone else speaks Whistlerian, then head straight down the hill (watching for moguls), be willing to jump, and go for the gold. If you can’t understand their language, propose another. “Do you like football? Good. Well, when the quarterback doesn’t know where the wide-end receiver is after the ball is hupped….” Etc. Communication is difficult without a common language.

How not to Listen to an Upset

Using mixed messages that deny or minimize. The worst thing in the world to say to an upset person is: “Don’t be upset.” Since they’re ALREADY upset, they may feel crazy and react.

Giving advice. Most listeners give up the impact of their listening by hiving off too soon into advice. Make sure you’ve listened fully before you advise. Better still: hold the advice and just get the beef. Good listening almost always makes advice unnecessary.

Having no time or space. Listening is difficult when you put aside too little time for it or talk in a busy setting. If you really want another person to open up, choose a relaxed and quiet place and a time free from interruptions.

What is the Source of an Upset

When human beings are beyond upsets, they can expect the heavens to open wide and angels in chariots to descend, whisking them off to God. Upsets are a hazard of modern-day people being human. Our contribution can lie in helping people find the source of the upset or see the total picture so that the upset can lift.

The real source of an upset usually lies buried in the long-distant past. The source of most upsets seems to lie between birth and age, perhaps, ten. Seldom is the source of a serious upset in the present. The chief players in these early, original upsets is usually the members of our immediate family and our very best and earliest acquaintances. The present culprit usually turns out simply to be a stand-in.

Most upsets yield when we understand the person’s present situation. If upset people are plunged into early-learned ways of meeting a threat –- getting even, being snide, ignoring others, freezing others out – just acknowledge what they day (remembering that tomorrow it may happen to you) and get the full communication.

Listening Shows We Care

Listening is probably the easiest and most appreciated way to show we care. The deeper we go in our listening, up to the point of release, the more the person feels cared for.

Listening Strategies

When speaking, a person can push an edge, pull it, or be with it. Any way will work and the possession of three strategies ought to allow one to overcome all obstacles to insight and understanding.

People bring up points repeatedly because they don’t feel heard the first time or because they are not sure themselves where they want to go with the subject and are awaiting clarifying feedback.

We can take successive passes at listening to another. Often the first pass allows the speaker to make sense of something. But often the puzzle does not become a picture until they make at least one more pass, during which they explore the emotional truth of the subject. They may also make a third pass to see if anything has been left out. But when they experience release, they usually have no trouble stopping. Once they have experienced release, often all they wish to do is rush home and tell their partners what they have discovered. I usually let them depart as soon as they experience release.

What to Listen for

When we communicate with one another, we use more than just the spoken word to get our message across. We use vocal tone, pitch, gesture, spacing, and silence. Moreover, we couch our messages in metaphors and images, whether consciously or not. All of these the listener must be able to catch. The listener must spread his net widely to trap it all.

Historical Clues
The story/history
The buried memories
Contextual Clues
Conceptual framework
Feelings
Likes and dislikes
Acts, scripts, and records
Issues, outcomes, and decisions
Investments
Intentions
Interpretations
Vocal Cues
Tone
Pitch
Intensity
Behavioral Clues
Expressions
Gestures
Moves
Costumes
Settings
Spacing
Timing
Verbal Clues
Metaphors
Imagery
Slang and jargon
Comparisons
Emphases and pauses
Issues and Problems

The difference between issues and problems is that issues are general, subjective, personal, and not measurable while problems are specific, objective, impersonal, and measurable.

Advising

You’ll get as much as you do until the point where you kick in with counselling, advice, or coaching. Once you begin to advise, the speaker is blocked, the train of thought is broken, and the speaker stops.

Listening to Onself

Unfortunately, good listeners are hard to come by. Until they are not, you may need to furnish yourself with the listening you need.

There are a number of ways to describe the process of listening to yourself. You could call it a two-handed internal conversation. You could say you make an object of yourself.

Any way you characterize it, you play both speaker and listener internally. Give it all you’ve got because you yourself need listening more than anyone, if you’re to be there for another.
Listening as a Gift

The greatest boon to any relationship is the gift of listening.

The Building Blocks of Communication

Misunderstanding can lead the speaker into frustration. A lack of attention from the listener may lead the speaker into irritation. A lack of grounding may lead the speaker into resignation.

When these outcomes occur, the speaker may feel cheated and incomplete. Or the person may feel despondent, thinking that he or she is not worth listening to. The key to the success of listening is for the listener to want to listen completely, fully, 100 percent. Often to do this, the listener must create the speaker’s undeveloped communication as a mystery, a puzzle, a conundrum, which the listener has an acute interest in helping to reveal or know.

In the days that I was considering counselling as a career, I would often problem solve with my clients,. I would listen to them for a while and then suggest a line of action. But I continually saw people refuse to entertain my solutions and insist instead on finishing their story – even if I had what I considered to be the right answer! Telling the story seemed much more important to them than solving what I regarded as a problem. When I finally relaxed and saw listening itself as the proper approach to the speaker’s need, I found them solving their own “problems.” All I needed to do was listen. This was definitely an easier way of counselling than problem-solving, which I had always found quite stressful.

Say goodbye in here to problem-solving or advising. Your job as counsellors is about to become 100 percent more effective and 100 percent easier. You are about to become listeners.

You probably weren’t taught listening in the family or in school (few of us were). Listening is more than simply turning one’s face in another’s direction and catching words thrown at us. That’s communicational baseball, at most a precursor of listening. Listening means deeply and fully hearing another’s thoughts and feelings, understanding their meaning and intention, seeing what they want and don’t want, what they need and don’t need, without judging or evaluating.

Listening often involves unravelling a jumble. Or it may require developing the “chapter headings” people so often speak in. Or it may mean “cracking their code.” Only when it’s safe to talk will it usually be rewarding to listen. Given deadlines and interruptions, it’s usually hard to have people speak from their heart and harder still to listen deeply. But, if the listening space is safe and free from distractions, the more willing will people be to reveal themselves in speaking.

When to Listen

People want to talk often when they experience too much joy or too much upset. When they’re wild about an accomplishment or down about something that happened, they want to talk about it. They may not stop until you acknowledge that you have heard them and what you heard. Joy-full people who aren’t heard often grind their feelings down and suppress themselves. Then they say that no one cares at work, no matter how well they do.

People also want to be listened to when they’re upset. An upset occurs when you feel your button suddenly pushed – alarms go off and you feel yourself suddenly irritated, mad, or frustrated. Some experience their upsets with storm and thunder. Others go more deeply into themselves and experience their upsets silently. Some glare; others stare with glassy eyes. Few expect to encounter someone who can listen and who cares to.

An upset is a present-time interruption in well-being that is, in some important way, related to earlier, similar events. An issue is a strongly-held preference regarding a way of being or acting that conditions our acting and thinking in the future. An interpretation is a persistent view of one’s self and the world that establishes the “box” within which thinking and acting take place.

Restorative listening involves recognizing when an individual is caught in an upset, gripped by an issue, or imprisoned within an interpretation. It involves knowing when to listen and when to stop listening. And it involves using a range of approaches to facilitate the speaker’s sharing in such a manner that the speaker himself or herself moves towards release.

An upset usually follows a loss or defeat of some kind. It can follow blocked momentum, frustrated expectations, or thwarted intentions. People in an upset experience strong emotions carrying them to far up or too far down for them to maintain unblocked relationship with others and with themselves. People in upset usually relate by tensing the musculature of their bodies, reducing their awareness, ort withholding communication or participation. They may retreat into an act or role that has for them value as a survival strategy.

An upset usually grows until we reach a peak of emotional experience. We often say or do things which are normally suppressed. Although we think our present circumstances determine how we respond, listening shows us that our response is predominantly coloured by our past experiences. We cast contemporary people in past roles belonging to parents or friends, making them stand-ins, and saying things to them that properly should be said to the originals of their type.

After fully expressing ourselves from inside the upset, we may feel temporary relief, but we leave a vast trail of damage and residue in our path, like a tornado that has ripped through town. We may have gone out of relationship with loved ones and now must work our way back in. We may feel obliged to make our damaging actions right and cause further damage. We may have committed ourselves to courses of action that we later regret. Our family and friends may hold us at arm’s length afterwards. In some cases, our treasured relationships may end.

The course of an upset is as follows. In the flow of time, something is said or done that triggers us. We feel an upsurge of strong emotion. We block others and begin to act according to a role. We withhold. We reach a peak and explode. After the release of our explosion, we gradually return to normal, only to survey the damage that we have done.

If we experience repeated major upsets, we may reach a breaking point. We draw a conclusion about affairs or life. From our conclusion, we create an interpretation of life. We make numerous decisions based on our conclusion and interpretation. Soon these matters result in a rule being formed and issues arising which tell us how we are to behave in future so as to avoid falling into the same upsets again. These conditioned ways of acting become our identity, the “box” from which we do not stray. As listeners, we can listen for all these clues to the “box” in which the speaker has imprisoned himself.

See the Other Objectively

You can only hope to find a lasting solution to a conflict if you have learned to see the other objectively, but, at the same time, to experience his difficulties subjectively. (Former U.N. Sectretary-General Dag Hammarskjold in Diane Dreher, The Tao of Inner Peace. New York: Harper, 1990, 236.)

Listening as Wisdom

The Chinese word for a wise person, sheng jen, means literally “one who listens.” International mediators Arnold Gerstein and James Reagan stress the importance of listening in their book, Win-Win. Peace activist Joanna Rogers Macy has called listening “the most powerful tool in peacemaking and any other kind of social change work.” (Diane Dreher, The Tao of Inner Peace. New York: Harper, 1990, 243.)

Compassionate Clarity

A key reason for knowing yourself with compassionate clarity is so you can hear another person without your stuff getting in the way. (George Mumford, sports psychologist and meditator, A.G., “Deep Listening,” O Magazine, May 2001, 239.)
Opening the heart

We’re talking about sacrifice here. Listening involves opening your heart, and the heart can get broken very easily. (George Mumford, sports psychologist and meditator, A.G., “Deep Listening,” O Magazine, May 2001, 239.)

Self-control

There has to be a certain self-control, whereby you’re able to stay open without the layers of opinions, likes, dislikes, and labels. That’s very difficult because you must put all your views and belief systems in abeyance. (George Mumford, sports psychologist and meditator, A.G., “Deep Listening,” O Magazine, May 2001, 239.)

Vulnerabiliy

The other person has to be willing to be vulnerable as well, willing to give up something. (George Mumford, sports psychologist and meditator, A.G., “Deep Listening,” O Magazine, May 2001, 239.)

Results of Listening

When people are heard, they feel honored and respected. They can extend caring and courtesy to others who have different points of view. And so a variety of viewpoints and perspectives can be considered. The best decisions are made when this happens. …

When the ideas of people are not heard and they are not included in the decision-making process, they feel that no one cares about them. When children or adults feel cut off and uncared for, they react in hurt and angry ways. Any action that is taken on their behalf will be resnted, if not opposed. (Paul Ferrini, EM, 77.)

Many of us believe that we listen, but it’s not true. Listening, if we did it deeply and fully, would totally transform our lives. (Paul Ferrini, EM, 79.)

Everyone wants to be heard

All any one wants is to be heard, to be cared about and respected. These are universal human concerns. As a husband or wife, we should extend this caring and respect to our partner. As a parent, we should extend it to our children. As a community, we should extend it to all our members: rich or poor, black or white, able-bodied or disabled. (Paul Ferrini, EM, 78.)

Listening cannot be forced

Even when we agree that others should have a voice [in the decisions that affect them], it doesn’t mean that we are willing to listen. And, unless we are willing to listen, what does having a voice mean? What does free speech mean if we are always putting our hands over our ears?

Our society says that everyone has a right to speak, but it cannot make us listen. It cannot insure that we will hear what others say to us or that they will hear what we say to them. Hearing has always been optional. It has always been a matter of choice. (Paul Ferrini, EM, 78-9.)

Hearing others is a form of loving [others]. And love has never been successfully legislated. You cannot make somebody love another person, nor can you make someone listen to another. (Paul Ferrini, EM, 79.)

Listening is not Judging

If judgments come up, remember that you aren’t listening: you’re judging. (Paul Ferrini, EM, 79.)

Listening is not Responding

Don’t respond in any way except to acknowledge that you have heard. If you are responding, you have stopped listening. (Paul Ferrini, EM, 79.)

We Usually Don’t Listen

We think that we hear one another, but we don’t listen very long or very deeply to each other. We are easily distracted by our own thoughts or by events happening in our environment. (Paul Ferrini, EM, 80.)

When we really “hear,” we feel acceptance, compassion, love, respect. We don’t want to give the other person a lecture or try to fix him or her. We just feel good that the person felt safe enough to communicate honestly with us. (Paul Ferrini, EM, 80.)

When we really “hear” another person, we hear ourselves. We know it could be us talking. There is that equality. There is that rapport. (Paul Ferrini, EM, 80.)

Listen to the truth, openly and deeply, without:

Being impatient
Ignoring the other person
Listening to our own thoughts
Defending
Deflecting
Playing “broken record”
Playing “twenty questions”
Discounting
Denying
Justifying or
Excusing.

Listener as Mirror

If a person is to get through blocks and phobias, I have to remain calm when they reveal themselves to me. I am like a looking glass in which they judge their acts through observing my response. So if I respond with alarm or disgust, they may feel quite self-conscious and ashamed and be unable to go deeper.

Listening for the Truth

The test of whether listening has been successful is whether release has occurred. Jesus said, the truth will make you free. And telling the truth to a committed listener will also set us free. If one has not experienced release, one has not told some aspect of the truth that must be told. There is more to go.

We’re not listening for games, ulterior motives, the self-serving bias, image management, the dark side or shadow side. We’re listening for the truth and the truth alone. And the test for it is release.

Identify the various messages contained in the speaking and choose which to go with.

Calm, Receptive and Connected

Only by remaining calm, receptive, and connected is the speaker induced to go deeply into the truth.

Feedback

Feedback is used (1) to confirm our guesses or hunches about what the speaker is saying, and (2) to mirror back the listener’s impressions. Here some useful ways of feeding back:

Sounds/sounds like x
You sound/you sound like x
Looks/looks like x
You look/you look like x
I hear you/your x
I see you/your x
I’d feel x about y; how do you feel?
I’d think x about y; what do you think?
I’d want to x; is that what you want?
I’d feel x; is that how you feel?
What I’m hearing you say is X.

Drawing the Speaker Out

Some useful prompts are:

How do you feel about…?
What do you think about…?
What would you like to do?
I’d feel…; is that how you feel?
I’d think…; is that what you think?
I’d want do…; is that what you want to do?
What would you have done if … occurred?
Tell me more about…?
Can you elaborate on…?
I’m not sure I understand…. Can you give me more details?
I’m curious to know about….
Are you willing to…?
So you’re saying….
So you feel…?
So you think….
So you’re saying….
So what happened for you was….
Is that the whole story?
Tell me about it.
I’d like to hear about it.
I’m not going anywhere.
I’m listening.

Last Point of Agreement

(1) When listening is out of synch and a breakdown occurs, go back to the last point of agreement. Wherever you can agree you last understood each other start again there and continue.

(2) When I encounter resistance from a speaker to a question I’ve proposed, I abandon it and return to the last point of agreement. I keep backing up until I find the path of least resistance. I take the decrease in resistance (or increase in ease) to mean that we are back on the right track, in terms of the speaker wanting to be known.

The same steps can be taken to call up forgiveness in ourselves. When we see that another has invited and won our forgiveness, we too can back up and find the last point of agreement. Both the speaker and the injured party seem quite content just recovering the last point where we agreed, without blame or resentment, and starting again.

Justifications

That’s why….

Excuses

I was just….

Speaking as a Listener

Many people consider effective speaking to be the crown of communicational skills. I consider it to be listening.

My job in life is to help the world learn to listen better.

My Life as Listener

In my family, I was the youngest of two children. I had to listen to my father, my mother, and my older brother and no one had to listen to me. So I grew up wanting people to listen to me.

As a child, I never knew how to get along with people so I had to do it when I was older. Then, as a teacher, I taught what I had learned to others. One way I learned to get along with people, especially when I didn’t know what to say (which was often), was to listen.

Listening to and understanding others became for me a survival skill.

When I became a sociology doctoral student and looked at becoming a counsellor, I would wrack my brains trying to solve the problems of the people I would work with. I would sit there listening to them, on edge and nervous, wondering how I would think of ways to solve their dilemmas.

Many people would not listen to my solutions but would return to their stories as soon as I had finished offering my solution. I pondered that. People really wanted to tell their stories. So I hit upon what was for me an entirely new and different approach to counselling, which involved simply listening to the other person and observing that they themselves, when they told the truth, reached a point of release and were restored to themselves. This, for me, made counselling effortless and painless. I could listen for hours. I was totally fascinated with other people’s lives and stories. And I never had to wrack my brains for a solution to their problems.

During the time that listening was making itself known to me as a therapeutic approach, I was observing that people’s early lives existed for them as a puzzle and they experience release in a moment of insight when their puzzle most often became a picture.

I found that a person’s whole strategy in life, their whole way of being, could sometimes be set up or triggered by a single incident.

Listeners Scarce as Hen’s Teeth

Usually we are talking to ourselves because very few people really listen and we seldom expect them to.

Questions

How do we listen?
What are the effects of deep, attentive listening?
How do we know when to listen?
How do we know what to listen to and what to ignore?
How do we know when something is more important than something else?
How do we speak?
What are our cultural speaking and listening patterns?
What do we use to emphasize and mark metre?
How do we know when to pause and when to end?
How do we know when we’ve dropped the ball as a listener?
What are our modalities (see-hearers, feel-hearers)?

Unuseful Listening

When I’m speaking and another is listening and they begin to advise me rather than listen, my heart often feels like it will break. I wish they’d be quiet and just listen. I can’t hear their advice over my upset. I often just say, “Yah. Yah. Yah” and hope they’ll fall silent again. If they go on too long, the thread is broken, my train of thought is lost, and I drop the idea of trying to tell them anything. They have shown that the session is about them, not me.

Reverse Order

The points a person makes may often come out in the reverse order in which they impressed themselves on the speaker in the first place. We may find ourselves listening backwards, so to speak, and must keep the reverse order of things clear in our minds.

Speaking the Speaker’s Language

Use the terminology the speaker understands. In terms of modality, listen for whether the speaker is a seer, hearer, feeler, toucher, etc. In terms of context, listen for whether they use the language of art, sport, business, computers, etc. Recreate their upset in the language they use. Many communicational breakdowns occur because people speak different languages and don’t feel heard or understood. They haven’t found a common denominator.

Emotional Truth and Actual/Historical Truth

The person may not speak the actual truth, but may instead say what is emotionally true for them. Even though they are exaggerating, for instance, the truth is that the way they are describing the situation is the way it felt for them. Appreciate that the way they are speaking is in fact the emotional truth for them.

Narrative Structure of Stories

Often people’s stories come out as narratives, organized by the structure then, and then, and then. Listen patiently through the whole story.

People may tell their story in layers. The first layer will be the narrative. The second layer will be their emotional response to events. The third layer may be their interpretation or response, etc.

If people do not find release telling the story the first time, let them go through it again and again, until release occurs.

Poem

Hear not the blaming word
But listen far below it
To the secret speaking
And the silent cry.

What Listening is Not

I recall once talking about an upset to a person who was not listening. I wasn’t feeling restored, I felt some relief from talking about my upset and listening to myself but I was nonetheless leaving a residue of blame generated from resentment at not being listened to. My friend was alternately silent or absent-mindedly commenting “yah?” This mode is nonetheless what society often thinks of as “listening.” It is simply a garbage can into which I was throwing my trash.

What she could have been doing was taking the initiative by drawing me out and reconstructing the upset with me, treating it like a puzzle.

Benefits of Listening for the Listener

For those who don’t know how to get close to another, listening can provide a safe and effective means.

A Brilliant Conversationalist

Good listening is invisible. The speaker believes that he reached release all through his own efforts. The contribution of the other is unseen. And yet, the speaker walks away considering the listener to be, as one person once remarked to me, a “brilliant conversationalist.” The speaker does not know how release occurred but is very grateful for it.

Teaching Listening

When I grew up, listening was not taught in schools or elsewhere in society. Only speaking was taught. Listening was taken for granted.

Edward Hall said that time has a voice and space speaks, but who is listening? I went through a collection of anthropology readers when I was in college looking for articles on listening, but I found anthropologists studying speaking in many cultures but not listening. Whatever the reason, listening begged no notice, received no attention, and remained unformulated.

Listening seemed to be regarded as a non-activity, a negative. Speaking was the activity, the positive. Perhaps that is why so many of us talk on top of each other: only speaking is valued. The speaker is the initiator, the contributor; the listener is seen as merely sitting there, passively, receptively.

But listening involves more than just sitting there, more even than just hearing. It involves seeing, feeling, being touched; it involves remembering, assembling, understanding; it involves feeding back, mirroring, and resolving.

Interpreting vs. Understanding

In interpreting others, I locate them in a conceptual space relative to myself. In understanding them, I locate them in a conceptual space relative to themselves.

Conclusions

Conclusions arise out of repeated upsets. They set up interpretations of life and lead to automatic decisions. If our life becomes simply a process of concluding and then automatically deciding, we become calcified, sclerotic, rigid.

Such is life

Decision

Decisions show how it was, justifying the past and laying down a history. They handle the present by leading to the creation of an act. They handle the future by walling us in with issues.

Scripts

Lone Ranger

What Deep Listening Addresses

Major or primal upsets
Event
Conclusion
Decision
Patterns
History – Past
Act – Present
Issue – Future

Release

An upset, issue, conclusion, or interpretation is self-defined and self-applied. Release is also self-instigated and self-triggered.

Release is a restoration of well-being through a sudden insight into an upset, conclusion, act, or issue.

Handling the Past, Present, and Future

History/Conclusion
Act
Issue

Tradeoffs

Many choices involve a tradeoff. The intellectual who lives in his head gives up the sense of the beauty of his surroundings but is less stressed by the multitude of decisions a person who is concerned with his or her surroundings might face. Everything has pros and cons, an upside and a downside.

Connections

When a speaker has an insight into something, we also say they have made a connection. The connection may be between two similar things or conditions, a cause and its effect, a part and a structure, or similar relationships.

Upsets and Losses

An upset can lift through being communicated, but a loss may not lift in the same way. Only time may cause the pain of loss to lift.

Restorative Listener

A restorative listener is one who is able to lead a person from upset to release through committed, resourceful listening.

What Communication Produces

Communication produces three results: restoration, rapport, and intimacy. Restoration is the recovery of well-being following an upset.

Where our Listening Patterns Come from

Our earliest mentors in listening were our parents, siblings, relatives, friends, and teachers. After these came the postman, milkman, shop owner, police officer, minister, and other officials we encountered in life. After them came employers, colleagues, trainers, professors, and spiritual guides. Most of these sources taught us listening intentionally, but some taught us unintentionally. Traumatic events also teach us – an exam failed or a job lost because we didn’t listen.

We often go to see professional listeners – priests, social workers, doctors, psychiatrists, negotiators, mediators. They may contribute thoughts and theories on the subject of listening as they work with us.

Using Progressive Release as a Guide

Restorative listening aims at the release of the speaker from upset. One yardstick of whether the listening is working or not is the observation of prjgressively-increasing levels of release in the speaker. Release may be signalled by the appearance of a smile, a rise in vocal tone, or a relaxed expression or posture.

Good Listening is Invisible

Good listening is invisible. People just hear themselves. If the speaker does not notice your contribution, you are right on track.

What to Listen for

Proferred choices. A speaker may report a choice that has been offered another. A lot can be learned from a proffered choice. The range of choices offered may betray our bias or intention. If both choices are negative, it probably signals that the speaker is not in favour of the action being considered. If both choices are positive, it probably signals that the speaker is partial to the considered action.

While we may fool ourselves that we are not being seen, others may look at how far or how little we are prepared to go and read the state of our minds from it. “Well, he’s prepared to get into the car and come and pick me up but he’s not prepared to spend the afternoon together.” Translation: he has something else he’d rather do.

Metaphors. Listen for metaphors like “cold feet” in relationship, etc. Encourage the speaker to take the metaphor literally in order to suss up what is actually being said. The work of listening is to raise what may be deeply unconscious to consciousness, in the process solving many puzzles. Raising metaphors and their significance to everywday awareness is one way it accomplishes its task.

The Code. Understanding the speaker may require “cracking their code” in which they are speaking.

Chapter Headings. Most people do not expect decent listening. Therefore they telegraph what they say. They speak in chapter headings and unfold the rest of the story only when they are assured that the listener is really listening. Therefore, understanding the speaker may require unfolding the story.

Levels of Certainty

Werner Erhard used to say that there were levels of certainty or dimensions of knowing, each more powerful than the preceding. Remaining in mystery about something was less powerful than having a belief. Having a belief was less powerful than actually thinking about something. Thinking about something gave one less of a sense of certainty than having a feeling about it. This in turn was less certain than actually touching something and seeing its reality that way. This in turn was less certain that knowing for sure that you did not know something, even if you touched it. And this was less certain than the natural knowing or understanding that arose when you knew something directly and immediately.

Historical Truth and Emotional Truth

How a situation feels to a speaker may be more important than how it actually was. As listeners, we are asked to make the emotional truth more important than the historical truth if we are to listen from upset to release. Let the speaker tell his or her version as if it were the plain truth for them. The truth of the situation will come out faster this way than if you correct them at every turn.

Clock Time and Psychological Time

Obstacles to Effective Listening: Our Prejudices or “Always Already Listening”

On many subjects we may have already made up our mind. If the topic comes up, we feel that we know all about it. We hear through this filter of always-already knowing or prejudging. This “always-already listening” can severely skew a listening session.

One can only think of listening to a beautiful woman (or man) whom we hope is sexually interested in us to see how always-already listening works. Every word she says is inspected for evidence of sexual interest and everything that shows no indication of that interest is quickly discarded while every new word is deeply examined for any expression of that interest. We have an always-already listening for sexual interest in this example.

What we are doing is channelling other people’s communication through the filter of what we want to hear. Meanwhile, they have their own worries, hopes, and fears and are speaking from that matrix. If we truly want to hear what they are communicating rather than what we want to hear, we will have to put our always-already listening filter aside.

My always-already listening is that things never work out. I therefore am an already-listening for complaints, breakdown, failure. I am very guarded and phrases like “everything’s fine” or “it’s easy” or “I’ll do it” do not come easily to my lips.

If we listen from our already-listening, the speaker will despair of being heard.

We can often detect another person’s already-listening by their intonation. An extreme intonation may reflect an earlier trauma which the person does not want to repeat.

Obstacles to Listening: Not Speaking the Same Language

I remember a woman I dated long ago who looked her love at me while I listened for it. I spoke my love in words and she watched for looks and waited for actions. But I did not send loving looks to her and she did not speak words of love to me. We went through months of incomprehension and disappointment before we finally parted company.

Working the Layers

The minute we share an upset, in our search for release, we clear the space for the next upset to come up. The upsets usually come up in reverse chronology: the latest first, working towards the earliest. Listening is often like travelling back through the ages in a time machine.

Wounds and Issues

Issues can be communicated but only time heals a wound.

Processes

1. What is Listening . (Empty your mind)

Natural End

For those of you who think you may end up listening until hell freezes over, people have an end to their string.

Keep Going

It doesn’t matter what has been said already, keep going with your story. If you want to see where your string leads to and experience release, keep going.

Unusual Requirements

Some people will not get their own numbers unless they are listened to non-judgmentally for an extensive amount of time. Thus, people who see themselves as sick a lot may need to be listened to for a longer amount of time than a person who simply has a problem. These life-interpretations are still susceptible to being understood if enough listening can be brought to them.

Stages of Listening

Listening

Comprehension

Synthesis

Understanding

To understand:

To grasp the meaning of, comprehend.
To grasp the reasonableness of.
To have thorough or technical acquaintance with or expertness in the practice of.
To be thoroughly familiar with the character and propensities of.
To accept as a fact of truth or regard as plausible without utter certainty.
To interpret in one of a number of possible ways.
To supply in thought as if expressed.
To have understanding; to have the power of comprehension.
To achieve a grasp of the nature, significance, or explanation of something.
To believe of infer something to be the case.
To show a sympathetic or tolerant attitude towards something.

Understanding:

Discernment, insight.
An act or result of interpreting.
The power of comprehending, specifically the capacity to apprehend general relations of particulars.
The power to make experience intelligible by applying concepts and categories.
Friendly or harmonious relationship.
An agreement of opinion or feeling; adjustment of differences.
A mutual agreement not formally entered into but in some degree binding on each side.

Release and the Fleeting Smile

Given that an upset is a space in which we feel withdrawn, depressed, and pained, the arrival of a smile on our face may mean that we have found the bottom line, missing piece, or big picture. But that smile may simply cross our features and disappear. The listener must be very much alert for the fleeting smile which, if he or she has the forethought to ask about, may bring release on in that very instant.

Often when I have asked a person what the fleeting smile was, what they have confided has completely caused the upset to lift. Perhaps they have seen what they could have done to address the situation and didn’t do. Perhaps they have seen that the matter wasn’t really as important as they have made it out to be because of other mitigating factors that followed. Whatever the reason, the smile is one of recognition that the upset need not be there and brings release. It is our job to spot it and gently bring it to the speaker’s attention with a request for an explanation of it.

Ways of Mirroring Back

You may see a look of irony on the speaker’s face. Yet if you say, “What’s ironic about that?” you may raise defensiveness in them and they may deny the look. Better to say, “Ironic, eh?” which they can easily agree with.

The Full Story

All most people want to do is tell the full story and be heard, once in their lifetimes. Many people have never been heard to that extent, except perhaps when their relationships were new and fresh.

The full story comprises the events, the details, the emotions, the consequences, the reflections, the beliefs, and the decisions.

Life-Interpretation

Your life-interpretation is your life in a nutshell. “I’m not good enough.” “Nobody likes me.” There is nothing wrong with a life-interpretation per se, not if it serves us and is life-sustaining.

Triggers, Tripwires, and Thresholds

Set off nuclear explosions
Chain reaction or build-up to critical mass and explosion
(“One damn thing after another,” “It never stops,” “I can’t take it any more”)
Or single events like unwitting reminders, anniversaries, and biological alarm clocks

Past, Present, and Future

The Past = History
The Present = Acts
The Future = Issues

History

Our “history” is a narrative arrangement of selected past events, the recital of which supports our identity or interpretation of who we are. We live experienced events forward, but we often relive them backwards. The reliving of past events backwards can often confuse the listener. The speaker often does not know the bottom line of relived experiences until he or she has gone through the layers of remembered feelings.

Act

Our acts are constructed, historical interpretations of what and how to be in life to produce the results we desire. Our acts have consistency, reveal conviction, and determine the way we show up in the world.

Issues

Kinds of issues: exceptions, mild objections, strong issues, sacred cows, taboos.

Identity

Our identity shows up as a set of beliefs, histories, acts, and issues that we have relating to ourselves, our place in the world, and the like. It is:

Preconditioned by our beliefs.
Shaped by a history of major, repeated, and related upsets.
Born of a commanding conclusion.
Bent to a lasting decision.
Elaborated and enshrined in an act.
Walled in by issues.

Our identity is insufficient to hold who we really are and we have little chance of discovering who we really are from inside identity.

Our beliefs handle the timeless; our history handles the past; our act handles the present; and our issues handle the future.

Conclusions and Decisions

When we endure upset after upset after upset related to a particular set of circumstances, we reach a breaking point where we arrive at a commanding conclusion about matters and generate from it a lasting decision. From then on our beliefs are shaped by our conclusions and our action is moulded by our decisions.

Upsets

Normally people are well and, then, in the face of troublesome, painful, or shocking events, they experience an upset. An upset usually occurs when an individual meets (or meets a reminder of) a frustrated intention, unfulfilled expectation, or shocking loss. An upset shows up for them and for others around them as an interruption in their well-being characterized by:

Strong emotions
Diminished participation (or withdrawal)
Increased tension
Reduced awareness
Diminished relationship (or animosity)
Reaction
Patterned, automatic, predictable responses.

When we are upset, it looks like the other person’s input was crucial. It looks like what they do is determinative of what we do.

An upset usually grows until it reaches a peak of emotional experience. Things may be said or done that are normally suppressed. We cast contemporary people in roles and garb that belong to earlier people. Although we think that our present circumstances dictate our upset, we usually find that their roots lie in the distant past. After experiencing and expressing what is there for us, we usually find the upset subsiding. But we’re left with a residue of problems that we create for ourselves and others in the meantime. We may have committed ourselves to courses of action that we later regret. We may have broken agreements and trust. Our friends and family may hold us at arm’s length afterwards. In some cases, relationships may end.

Definite events set us off. Some trigger us, hooking us all of a sudden and gripping our attention. A person who resembles another person can be a trigger. An anniversary of a painful event, such as the death of a parent or a lover, can trigger us. The third type is the biological alarm clock. If you’re a woman, you might be triggered on your 38th birthday, thinking time is running out for you to have a child.

Some events are not so much a trigger, as a threshold. What this means is that something painful occurs again and again until we are overcome by the cumulative effect.

Restorative listening involves seeing when a person is in an upset, gripped by an issue or imprisoned in an interpretation and listening in a committed way until the upset is fully explored and released.

Goal of Restorative Listening

What the goal of restorative listening is is dawning awareness, the experience of insight, discovery, revelation, the penny dropping, eureka, aha! The experience of dawning awareness brings with it release from the unconscious awareness of the upset. When the pieces fall into place, the puzzle becomes a picture. We see it. We know what’s going on. We get the picture. Once we do, the puzzle releases its grip on us.

What does not Constitute Listening

Blaming and shaming
Preaching, moralizing, and lecturing
Ordering and bossing
Admonishing and accusing
Ridiculing and belittling
Bribing and threatening
Interrogating and analyzing
Counselling and advising
Being sympathic or sarcasticDiagnosing and prognosing

What This Workshop is Not

It is not a course in assertiveness. It’s not a course in having your way in life. It is not a course in analyzing meaning.

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