Active listening is non-judgmental listening with full attention.
Active listening is about not only listening but also about acceptance and reception of the speaker’s whole self. Active listening requires the listener to be empathetic, non-judgmental and congruent. It requires the listener to be open to whatever the client says. It does not mean that a listener cannot have an opinion or own emotions. If we feel it necessary to express our feelings that arise during the speech of the client it is very important to express them as solely personal, never in a judgmental way.
There are certain communication techniques that help active listening such as repeating or paraphrasing certain words or sentences of the client, highlighting a couple of topics that seem to be important. Summarizing the topic, articulating emotions that the speaker mentions, and the use of symbols and images.
Easy songs can be used in a very wide range of ways for almost any facilitation need:
opening or closing a ceremony
forming bonds amongst a group
soothing hearts after conflict, tender sharing, or grief
empower participants, put them in touch with their power & energy
meditation or contemplation
The purpose of Setting Your Intention is to clarify, both within oneself and within the group, what each person’s aim is.
The purpose of the Round of Gratefulness is to practise the attitude of gratefulness. This brings deeper peace, greater well-being and an enhanced capacity for joy and self-empowerment.
There are five guiding principles that can serve as touchstones to support the practice:
- Life is a gift
- Everything is a surprise
- The ordinary is extraordinary
- Appreciation is generative
- Love is transformative
Relationships are life. Every person builds up a social network in the course of their life. It is fed by family, friends and professional contacts. In times of crisis, we notice in particular whether this social network is actually sustainable and nourishing or not.
You can imagine your relationships as different types of plants in a garden. Just as you would regularly water, weed and care for them, you can go through your relationship garden every now and then in the same way.
In a professional context the Garden of Relationships can be used as a subjective and qualitative snapshot which reveals important issues of stakeholder relationships. Subsequent to that, it is possible to prioritise these issues and to focus on solutions.
RAIN meditation is a powerful tool to support participants in becoming aware of their strong and challenging emotions and finding a way to unfold the insights these emotions offer. This practice is easy to learn and holds enormous potential for soothing the heart, gaining insights into our own psyches, and healing emotional wounds.
RAIN is an acronym:
R – Recognize (naming or acknowledging what is going on)
A – Allow (pausing to give space for life to be as it is)
I – Investigation (looking more closely at what is happening)
N – Nurture (offering ourselves compassion and potential healing)
The originator of Deep Listening, Warren Ziegler, describes six modes of Deep Listening. An experienced listener can weave them together or dance between them, for the beginner it can be good to practise them one at a time. They are:
- Be silence – Do not respond in any way to the talker, either with words or with body language. Look away. No eye contact. This is not something you do, not a task but a state of being. Thus, be silence throughout your whole being.
- Give attention – This is an early form of the sixth mode, emptying. Focus your entire self on what the speaker is saying, to the exclusion of all else. Their words are the only reality.
- Be empathic – This is a grand act of the imagination through which spirit lives. Enter the talker’s story and live it as your own. Feel it in your body, your mind, your spirit, as if you were living her story with her.
- Be non-judgmental – A difficult practice when the talker offers images (values, ideas, intentions) in conflict with yours! But essential if you are to allow the other to come to the fullness of their images before judgement is rendered, whether their own judgement or yours.
- Nurture – This is an advanced form of being empathic. Enter into the talker’s story and help them search for elements they may have missed. Remember: it’s their story, not (yet) yours. Ask a question only if you must ask it in order to clarify what the speaker means – a ‘compelling question’.
- ‘Empty’ – Put to one side (‘park’) your present: your longings, knowledge and experience, hopes, dreams, problems, visions. When you do that, you will find your way to deep listen to your creative side without any limitations. Basically you’re in meditation mode, focusing not on your own breathing or your mantra but on the words of the speaker.
Buddhist teacher, author, and nun Pema Chödrön gives tonglen instruction as follows:
“On the in-breath, you breathe in whatever particular area, group of people, country, or even one particular person – maybe it’s not this more global situation, maybe it’s breathing in the physical discomfort and mental anguish of chemotherapy; of all the people who are undergoing chemotherapy. And if you’ve undergone chemotherapy and come out the other side, it’s very real to you. Or maybe it’s the pain of those who have lost loved ones – suddenly, or recently, unexpectedly or over a long period of time, some dying. But the in-breath is – you find some place on the planet in your personal life or something you know about, and you breathe in with the wish that those human beings or those mistreated animals or whoever it is, that they could be free of that suffering, and you breathe in with the longing to remove their suffering.
And then you send out – just relax out – send enough space so that peoples’ hearts and minds feel big enough to live with their discomfort, their fear, their anger or their despair, or their physical or mental anguish. But you can also breathe out for those who have no food and drink, you can breathe out food and drink. For those who are homeless, you can breathe out/send them shelter. For those who are suffering in any way, you can send out safety, comfort.
So in the in-breath you breathe in with the wish to take away the suffering, and breathe out with the wish to send comfort and happiness to the same people, animals, nations, or whatever it is you decide.
Do this for an individual, or do this for large areas, and if you this with more than one subject in mind, that’s fine… breathing in as fully as you can, radiating out as widely as you can.”
After a program, course, or project, the organizing team can use this method to reflect on each person’s roles and effectiveness. Reflection Fishbowl is a powerful tool for internal use amongst a team that has worked closely and trusts each other.
This method is based on a systems thinking approach to problems. It is particularly useful in the case of sustainability since dealing with modern global problems always involves complexity. Systemic approaches helps to see a bigger picture and understand the connections among environmental, social and economic aspects, creating the possibility to not compromise any of them while planning problem resolution.