By Jan Radoslovich
The October 2020 Soul Matters theme was “Deep Listening.” WUUC’s Lay Pastoral Associates (LPAs) and Rev. Dan would like to take this opportunity to share some of the skills we use for deep listening. Each of us in the congregation can have the opportunity to provide care to each other in times of need.  Deep listening has an important role in enabling us to support each other in our beloved community.

Why do it?

Practicing and developing deep listening skills can offer the “quality of listening that is possible among a circle of human beings, who by their attentiveness to one another create a space in which each person is able to give voice to the truth of their life.”  Rebecca Parker

Deep Listening Includes:

  • Being aware of your own ability and readiness to engage with the speaker.
  • Being fully present in the “here and now” with the speaker, tuned in to the experiences, feelings and needs expressed in this moment.
  • Being attentive to the speaker’s speech and body language for deeper meaning, unspoken needs and feelings conveyed.
  • Being aware that the speaker’s experiences and points of view may not be the same as yours, and your role is to understand and reflect, not judge or agree.
  • Asking questions to encourage the speaker to clarify their thinking and feelings in order to more fully understand their truth.

How to Practice Deep Listening:

Center the speaker as the focus of the conversation

You are present for the speaker.  Keep the focus on the needs of the speaker as they talk. Avoid statements or comments that redirect the conversation back to you as the listener. Ex. “That reminds me of something similar that happened to me.” Avoid statements or comments that change the subject. Ex. “Speaking of anger, did you see the movie about….”

Emphasize the “here-and-now”

What does the speaker need “here-and-now?” What is happening for the speaker “here-and-now?” Avoid reassuring cliches, which tend to minimize the significance of the feelings and convey a lack of understanding or support. Ex. “It will all work out.” “Everyone feels that way.” “It’s not as bad as you think.” “The universe has a plan for everything.” 

Focus on feelings

Ask questions about feelings.  Use active listening skills such as:  reflecting, probing, supporting to convey interest in understanding feelings. Verbalize implied feelings to validate understanding and help the speaker become more aware of their feelings.  Ask the speaker to describe in words how they are feeling right now.  Ask the speaker to describe how they feel about the situation. 

Balance words with silence

Use silence to slow the pace of the conversation. This gives the speaker time to reflect upon, then speak further about feelings and insights that have arisen from their sharing. As a listener, become comfortable with the uncomfortable void of silence. The speaker is doing their internal work during this void.

Show empathy and respect

Empathy is doing our best to see and experience the world or situation from the perspective of the speaker. Respect is offering regard for the speaker’s perceptions, opinions, feelings, needs and personhood. This can be done with simple phrases, “I hear what you are saying,” “I understand,” “This is a difficult time for you,” “Thank you for sharing so openly with me.” 

In summary

“To listen is very hard, because it asks of us so much interior stability that we no longer need to prove ourselves by speeches, arguments, statements or declarations.  True listeners no longer have an inner need to make their presence known. They are free to receive, to welcome, to accept.”  Henri Nouwen

Are you willing to be a deep listener?

Authored by Jan Radoslovich, lay pastoral associate, with guidance from Soul Matters, What Does it Mean to Be a People of DEEP LISTENING? October 2020.