Wow, I just watched a video by The School of Life that captures 80% of what I have taken so long to learn in my journey to become what I feel is a good therapist: a good listener. I've never heard anyone else articulate the essential ingredients of good listening so concisely and so in line with the things I've had to learn on my own through hundreds of hours of practice. I'm embedding the video at the bottom.
Here is a summary of the key points:
- Encourage people to elaborate their point, instead of responding with your own story, because most people don't know quite what they are trying to say and need to talk it out to pinpoint it; and keep the speaker's history in mind as you listen to new information and connect it all, so they make new insights and feel deeply heard.
- Urge clarification about why someone feels a certain way to help them understand their own life themes and values and definitely don't move to reassurance and advice giving too quickly.
- Don't moralize and judge; instead, respond with small sounds of sympathy and reassurance. Realize that we are all weak and vulnerable in some way. Warm to vulnerability, instead of rejecting it.
- Separate disagreement with hostility. Invite or at least allow for disagreement in the relationship to show that people don't always have to agree to remain in relationship with each other. (This one isn't as often used as a therapist but sometimes it does happen).
In my thinking, I've been summarizing good listening as Compassionate Curiosity, a nonjudgmental empathic desire to keep learning more and more about a person that can only happen through explicit intention, bracketing of judgement and willingness to identify the hidden virtues and values behind embarrassing and shameful emotions that block true exploration. So very similar!