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January 2009   Supportive Listening™   Newsletter
Listening Tips:
Fish or Cut Bait

I’ve noticed that sometimes when I'm talking with friends, my attention wanders. This is normal, and when I catch it, I can generally bring my attention back to the present.

But this wandering attention can become habitual, particularly when talking on the phone, to the point where being only partly present for a conversation becomes the norm. What concerns is more than just multitasking—it’s how this partial attention can weaken connection with friends.

For this new year, I am going to explore a new way: in conversations where my attention is wandering, particularly as a listener, I am going to “fish or cut bait.”

On the "fish" side, where I decide that "yes, I do want to be in this conversation" I'll take a deep breath, look around, and up my commitment to being present and attentive.

On the "cut bait" side, where I decide that "no, I don't want to be in this conversation anymore" I’ll look for the opportunity to gracefully wind down the conversation.

But that’s easier said than done. My challenge is to fully accept that it's okay to be “done”, to not want to listen anymore.  And to realize that it's really better off for both of us that I not pretend to be engaged in the conversation if I'm really not. That no presence (leaving) is better than weak presence.

So my goal is to be more aware of my level of presence in the conversation, and accepting of whatever that is. And then if my attention is wandering, to make an intentional choice about what to do about it.

My belief is that in the end, this will be better for everyone because when I'm in a conversation I'll know and they’ll know that I’m really there—and that I want to be.  

— Paul
Listening in Tough Times

Open the newspaper, turn on the TV, and the message is "These are tough times!" Now, more than ever, is a time for Supportive Listening.

I've recently had several conversations with worried friends. And the tools of Supportive Listening have really helped me as a listener.  For the most part I've been able to remain calm, listen attentively, and help them find clarity. 

So I'd like to encourage you to use your best skills of calm, accepting, nondirective listening to support those around you.  I bet they’ll appreciate it. And remember to take care of yourself, too. Don’t be shy about asking for Supportive Listening when you need it.

There is great potential in our families and communities to skillfully support each other through challenging times.

Paul. (Eran will be back for next month's newsletter.)


From the Field of Listening :
Listening Lessons from a Grand Book about Parenting

Over the past several months I have been reviewing several popular books on listening. And in the course of my reading, I have come across a wonderful book called "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk" by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. Although I don't have children, I find this book to be a refreshing view on the topics of growth and helping.

The ideas in "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen..." resonate for me because they are grounded in principles of respect for and empowerment of others, as is Supportive Listening. The authors point out how well meaning parents can habitually deny children their feelings, as illustrated by the example of a parent who says to a child, "You couldn't be tired, you just napped."

In their book Faber and Mazlish offer a way to listen carefully, acknowledge what the child is saying, and then help the child to name the feeling that they are experiencing. Although guessing and naming the feelings of the speaker isn't part of Supportive Listening, I could see such a technique could being useful in listening to children, particularly young children.

"How to Talk So Kids Will Listen..." has a whole chapter on how to encourage autonomy in children. Of the six pointers that they give, I found three of them to be extremely valuable in encouraging autonomy in anyone, not just children. [continued...]

Supportive Listening Forums

Our free forums have a great Q&A section with a lot of information about Supportive Listening. You're welcome to browse what's there already and post questions, and answers, of your own.

A Workshop for your Group

Do you know a group or community that could benefit from Supportive Listening? If so, let us know.

We can come work with you to tailor a workshop for your group's unique needs.

Questions? Email us or see the FAQ for organizers.

Presenting "The Magic of Supportive Listening"

Interested in helping to spread the word about listening? Paul is available to give his presentation, "The Magic of Supportive Listening", which includes stories, research, and a fun hands-on listening exercise. Here's a 5-minute sample of the presentation.

If your club or organization is looking for speakers, contact us.
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