Saturday, April 12, 2008

12 main skills of wellspring listening - from my coffee talk handbook

This is an excerpt from Chapter 11 of my handbook on listening - Coffee Talk (which can only be viewed on Explorer).

If the attitude is right, anyone can learn the Wellspring Listening Skills. Attitude is 90%. Skills are the other 10%.

Skill number one: Stop, look, listen and discern. Ask yourself what the arena is that you are about to engage in. Discernment and wisdom are your greatest friends. Ask yourself what tone or issue is in this arena. As you are discerning, think of skill number two.

Skill number two: Posture to Wellspring Listen in this arena. Put up the James chapter 1 Grid —be quick to listen and slow to speak. That means totally focused on her story and the words she is using and the emotion in her voice.

Skill number three: Put your thoughts on hold (after you have discerned the tone). Put the pause button on. Stop thinking about what YOU want to say next.

Skill number four: Look into your sister’s eyes and hear her words. Track with what she is saying. As best as you can, capture as much of the essence of what is being said.

Skill number five: Keep your thoughts on pause so that you can hear her heart ~ it helps in tracking what she is saying. Don't be thinking about the advice you want to offer her. Don’t be trying to think of how you want to fix this situation - just listen. If she wants advice, she just might ask for it.

Skill number six: Attend and Understand. Attending is the process of filtering out some messages and focusing on others. When we attend, we get ourselves, our own thinking and judgments about what we are hearing, out of the way. The beginning stage of understanding happens when we start to make sense of a message. Unfortunately, a lot of times it’s possible to misunderstand the message. To get understanding, don’t judge prematurely. We get understanding by getting clarification. Clarification happens by asking questions. A question might be, “I’m hearing you that correct?” Take time to understand the speaker’s thoughts and ideas before judging her. This is especially hard when they seem to conflict with yours. Conflicts can happen because of the interpretation of words being used. What I think a word being used means may be totally different than what she is meaning it to be in the context of her story. Ask what she means by the word she used. The final point in this skill is to remember not to have an exchange of ideas, but to hear her heart with your heart. Listen first, make sure you understand and then later evaluate.

Skill number seven: Reflect, Feedback, Summarize. "I’d like to see if I’m hearing you correctly. So, what I'm hearing you say is..." Your sister will let you know if she's not been fully heard. Feedback, summarize, paraphrasing all mean that you reflect the speaker’s thoughts or feelings. Unless they are fed back, how else can she know that you are following her. Her head nods don’t always imply you are tracking. You restate her comments as naturally and accurately as possible. This is a way of cross checking the information. This may seem quite awkward at first if your sister has said a lot of stuff, and you’ve had some difficulty following her.

What you can do is take the essence of what she has said and put in the form in the form of, “What I am thinking I have heard you say is… “ . As best as you can, repeat it back to her. In trying to track with her, if she has rabbit trailed, just take the tail end of what she has said and reflect that back. Reflecting is mirroring. It’s as if you are holding up a mirror so she can see her image, but the mirror is really a mirror of what’s in her heart. Remember that verse in Matthew that says that out of the heart the mouth speaks, because that’s what is happening. Her mouth is speaking what is in her heart.

Skill number eight: Ask Questions. After you have reflected what the speaker has said and they nod or verbally let you know they were heard, it’s then appropriate to ask a question or two. In Wellspring Listening, we teach women to ask permission to ask a question. What we say is, “May I ask you a question?” It’s a way to grace a woman rather than assuming we can just ask. The one being asked the question has every right to say “No.” If that is the case, let it rest. It could be that she has more to say and therefore what would be appropriate is to allow her to say more. We want to respect boundaries. Grace her by allowing any awkwardness to roll off. If the person says, “Yes,” then proceed with

Skill number nine. Please, don’t ask questions to satisfy your own curiosity. You might become so interested in her story that you will want to hear more. That is not Wellspring Listening. Good questions can encourage them to think about their problem and give them the opportunity to understand it more clearly.

Good questions can help her bring out her true feelings about a situation as well as expose the real issue.

Poor questions can bring confusion or distract her from confronting the situation or the problem. Don’t lead her in a direction you think she needs to go to help her find the answer to her situation ~ that’s back door fixing. Lead her to discover what God wants her to know and what He is saying to her. Remember that her discovery is the goal.

Speaking of issues—the issue is very rarely the issue. Often when you think that THIS (whatever the this is) is the ISSUE, I’ve discovered that if you keep letting a woman pour out, the issue you thought was the issue is not always the issue. There’s always something else that God seems to be after.

The Importance Of Right Questioning. It’s a wise and caring woman, desiring to listen and hear the heart, who asks the right kind of questions. Asking the right kind of question can either open up or close down another woman. I have found that if I ask questions that only give me a “yes” or “no,” then that will be the only answer I’ll get—a “yes” or a “no.” Those kinds of questions typically can make a woman feel cornered, controlled, or trapped. They are good questions for a court of law, but not a safe place for a woman needing to be heard.

Good questions are the kinds that give the speaker the ability to “say more”. These good questions do not begin with a “do you” kind of statement. The “do you” and the “will you” and the “are you” are
pushy and threatening. They can make a woman feel controlled or intimidated, making her take the defensive posture.

Ask “yes” or “no” for clarity only.

Open-Ended questions generally begin with WHAT or HOW. Take your "do you" or "are you" questions and rephrase them. Don’t be discouraged with the process it takes to learn to do this.

A few of the open-ended questions/statements I suggest:

"You said something about.....would you tell me a little more about that?"

"How is this related to the other point you made?"

"What exactly are you meaning when you say_____?”

“How does that make you feel?”

Unfair Questions:
Asking a question that is really a statement.
An example of this might be, “Don’t you think the Lord understands what you’re going through?”
Asking a question with a hidden agenda.
Asking a question that begs for a correct answer.
Asking a question based on an unchecked assumption.
Asking a question that traps (yes or no questions trap).

Good Wellspring questions clarify the speakers thoughts or feelings.

Skill number ten: Be Supportive. There are times when someone sharing wants to know more than the reflection of what they are saying. They need to know that you’re with them. They need to know that you care about them and accept them right where they are. Support is NOT telling someone who is upset that everything will be fine. Support is not allowing that person the right to their feelings. Support is caring and letting them know you’re “with” them. Support is weeping with those who weep and mourning with those who mourn. I like to say to women, “Thank you for sharing this with me ~ I feel honored to hear this part

Non Supportive Statements:
“Don’t worry about it, it will work out.”
“You shouldn’t feel that way.”
“It’s nothing to get upset about.”
“That’s a silly way to feel.”
“Hey, it’s only___________.”
“I know just how you feel.” (not)
“It’s just a_____(dog, party, job, whatever).”
“You’ll feel better tomorrow.”
“Ten years from now you won’t remember a thing.”
“There are a lot of other fish in the sea.”
“You know, it’s your own fault.”
“Well, it must have been God’s will.”

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