Paired listening and group listening

These guidelines are designed to help you to learn some new things about listening, and making closer connections with each other. In the group, the quality of listening to each of us does will determine the effectiveness of our time together.

In normal circumstances, or in meetings, we usually listen casually, jumping in to offer our comments whenever we think of something to say. We look for what we want to know and comment on our thoughts about each topic of interest to us.

The listening you are encouraged to do here is different, however:

The idea is to listen in order to assist the person who is talking. We rarely have the chance to examine our thoughts and experience at our own pace without interruption from outside demands on us. We try to solve problems, but seldom have time to understand why our solutions succeeded or failed. Listening in this group is set up to give us precious time to think and to develop trust in our own fine intelligence.

When you listen to your partner or another member of the group unfold their thoughts in turn, it will be your job to protect them from interruption and judgement. With your attention, they will be able to examine their thinking more closely, having a chance to sort through their experience without the usual worry and rush. As a listener, you will learn more about who your partner or group member is and how they think and feel, when you put aside what you are curious about or how your experience compares.

You will feel free to talk about yourself in detail when you listen to one another in turn. Here are some short guidelines to help you to begin to listen as an assistant to another person:

  • Adopt an attitude of full respect for yourself and for every member of the group.
  • Assume that your listening, backed by your respect and caring, will be of key significance to other members of the group.
  • Give your full attention to the person who is speaking. Do not interrupt.
  • Do not offer advice. Instead offer an attitude of trust in each person’s ability to think, experiment and problem-solve.
  • Openly praise the good you see in yourself and in others.
  • Keep the situations and feelings discussed in the group and in pairs STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL. Do not refer to what someone else has said when it is your turn to talk, at the close of the group, when you meet on another occasion, or in conversations with others.
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