ACTIVE AND REFLECTIVE LISTENING
Resolving conflict involves not only having the vocabulary and the skills to effectively communicate one’s emotions, it also requires that someone is listening to those words and interpreting them in accurate ways. Communication, especially when it comes to conflict resolution is a two way street involving both speaking and listening.
Educational systems certainly spend a lot of time teaching learners how to speak – how to stand at a podium or walk around the stage, how to pronounce your words and pace your sentences, how to move your hands and body when making certain points, how to deliver a convincing argument, rebut counter-arguments and win a debate – all of which are important skills in many facets of life. However, how much time is actually spent teaching learners how to listen? Its sometimes assumed that listening is a skill that everyone possesses and consciously develops. This could not be further from the truth.
Just as there are methods and techniques to make us more effective speakers, so to exist methods and techniques that can make us more effective listeners. And when we are concerned with resolving conflict, staying in tune with the emotions and feelings of those with whom we are working, and creating a peaceable learning environment, listening skills are paramount.
Read this short piece, Reflective Listening, by Neil Katz and Kevin McNulty. In it they outline two kinds of listening skills – attending skills and reflecting skills.
“Reflective listening is useful in a variety of situations. You can use listening to help when another person is experiencing a difficulty or problem. Also, the communication skills of problem solving, assertion, conflict management, and negotiation all require the extensive listening. In social situations listening can create a climate of warmth between people. Listening is also important for handling resistance or anger in others. It is needed to settle disputes. Leading group discussions/conversations requires effective listening as well. Directions can be clarified by listening. In general, reflective listening is useful in conducting any difficult conversation with another.” (Katz & McNulty, 1)
Reflection Question: Do you find yourself particularly adept or strong in practicing any of the specific attending and/or reflecting listening skills? If so, how have you been able to develop and practice those skills? If not, what specific kinds of attending or reflecting skills do you think you could improve?
- Artze-Vega, Isis. Active Listening: Seven Ways to Help Students Listen, Not Just Hear. Faculty Focus
- Fisher, Roger & Ury, William & Patton, Bruce. Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In. Penguin Books: May, 2011.