As a mediator working with young people and families I am often asked this question. My response? …. The best way to get someone to listen to you is to demonstrate you are willing to listen to them and you want to understand what is important to them.
Alongside Breathing Space and other national organisations The Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution (SCCR) is promoting and supporting Scotland’s Year of Listening. We recognise that listening is key to positive relationships and positive relationships are vital to mental health and wellbeing.
The SCCR promotes and supports best practice in mediation, conflict resolution and early intervention with a particular focus on young people and families. We do this through a range of activities including free events throughout Scotland and a digital hub packed full of resources and advice and information around relationships and conflict resolution.
A key skill that we explore in our training is listening. We call it a skill because although people learn to listen when they are little, it’s not always as easy as we think!
“They don’t listen.” “They always interrupt me.” “I feel invisible.”
These are phrases I hear often.
Feeling truly heard by someone is extremely powerful. When we are listened to we feel cared for, nurtured, and understood. We no longer have to battle to put our point across. I can feel the relief run through my body as I write this and imagine that moment when the other person gets me.
Taking the time to listen to someone demonstrates respect. You don’t necessarily have to agree, but offering someone that space and time to be heard can be a massive shift in a tricky relationship.
However, truly listening to understand isn’t always easy. When we listen to someone it happens in stages;
1. The listener hears what the other person says.
2. The listener tries to understand and put the information into context.
3. The listener decides if they need more information to better understand.
In my experience families often don’t spend a lot of time in stage 1. When things are heated, emotions run high, if there are external distractions, if you’re tired or having a rough day listening can be really difficult.
Sometimes when we are supposed to be listening to someone we are caught up thinking about our own response; we are taught that having an opinion is important.
We don’t need to be perfect, life is full of twists and turns and we don’t always get it right first time. When you are next in listening seat ….
• Take a breath and stay present with what the other person is saying.
• Before you respond make sure they have finished.
• Check you have understood what is important to them.
• Be curious, ask questions before offering an opinion.
Scotland’s year of listening is an opportunity for us all to consider how we can be better listeners. What will you do today to make this happen?
Abbey is currently working with the SCCR in the role of Mediation and Conflict Resolution Advisor. She also practices as a mediator with the Cyrenians Amber Mediation and Support Service. Abbey first graduated in 2009 with an MA in Social Anthropology and Social Policy. She went on to complete her accredited skills training in community mediation with the Scottish Community Mediation Centre. Since then Abbey has worked for various mediation providers including the Cyrenians, Sacro and Common Ground Mediation. She has experience in community, workplace, common repairs, young people and families and additional support for learning mediation and is also accredited by the Scottish Community Mediation Centre. More recently Abbey completed her Msc in Mediation and Conflict Resolution which has brought a new perspective to her practice and development.