Three surprising insights about listening and encouraging others to talk.
Surprising insight number one.
Distance brings it closer.
Many topics, especially at a group or community level, are very sensitive and people would often rather avoid them.
One surprising insight from research that Dr Emily Beausoleil of Massey University is conducting with experienced ‘listeners’ is that good listeners often create a certain distance between the speaker and the topic. They find a way to help people say what can’t easily be said outright or directly.
Creating distance between the person and the topic takes away some of the emotional threat that might arise.
One example of creating distance that is used in toilet training children who still haven’t mastered the discipline of using the toilet illustrates this point. Parents can talk about “sneaky poos” that has somehow got into the house rather than accusing the child of going to the toilet where they shouldn’t.
Emotion focused therapy, a couples counselling methodology, uses the idea of “demon dialogues” that enter the room when a couple are having difficulty communicating with each other. The demon dialogues refer to unpleasant feelings and memories from childhood that are triggered by dynamics in the current relationship. Calling these moments demon dialogues is a lot more helpful than labelling the partner a ‘difficult person’ or worse.
There are many other ways you can explore highly emotive subjects, such as placing objects on the table in front of you to represent parts of your story. Groups can use music, drama and the metaphors that arise in play, storytelling and visual images to create safe ways to talk about difficult topics.
For more tips on how you can improve your listening skills and how you react to others, pick up a copy of our book here