This blog post was written in conjunction with Claire Gold, InterCHANGE People Development Associate.
“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.” – Karl A. Menninger
To be truly heard and understood is very precious: it can transform communication and alter lives.
As a Mentor, listening has a specific purpose:
- To communicate understanding and acceptance
- To help your Mentees gain insight and/or get to the core of what their experience or challenge is
- To assist your Mentees to take responsibility for helping themselves
When you are still, present and fully listen you may find that the ideas and insights which arise within your Mentee are far richer and more profound than anything your active intellect could come up with. It’s here that our perceptions and sensitivities to others are most heightened and therefore our responses are richer. It’s the gift that keeps giving!
Reflective listening is an active process that constructs meaning from both verbal and non-verbal communication. When interacting, it is common for people to either dominate by talking or they are just “waiting to speak” rather than listening attentively. Reflective listening is quite rare and is a structured way of listening and responding to others. Using this method helps build trust, rapport and confidence in your Mentees.
So how do we do this? It’s a skill that you can’t always perfect, but it can always be practiced.
7 top tips for reflective listening
- Give your full, sustained attention to what your Mentee is saying and remain focused on them. It’s easy to get into chatting, so beware!
- Empathise with your Mentee’s point of view. This doesn’t mean agreeing with them, it means being genuinely curious about their experiences, ideas and feelings – viewing things from their perspective
- Summarise the gist of what your Mentee is saying, by using your own words to show you understand
- Encourage your Mentees to speak freely by withholding judgement – communicate your acceptance through eye contact, head nods, encouraging noises such as “uhuh” and body mirroring (reflecting your Mentee’s posture without mimicking)
- Carefully encourage Mentee to voice their feelings which will be apparent not just in the words used but in their tone of voice, in their posture and other nonverbal cues. Say what you observe: “I’m noticing you’re looking down a lot and I’m wondering what you’re feeling?”
- Respond to your Mentees without digressing to other subjects
- Use acknowledgement, encouragement and open/clean questions. This encourages Mentee to open up to find their own solutions. Offer no advice – not easy!
“I would love to hear about it.”
“Anything else about xxxx you’d like to share?”
“What type of ‘anxious’ is that anxious?”
“What would you like to have happen?”
Try practising this with friends, family, co-workers. What do you notice? We’d love to know how you get on. Share your experiences by commenting below.
Mosaic is working in partnership with Karen Tidsall and her team from InterCHANGE People Development to deliver mentor training. Find out more at www.interchangepd.com, @interchangepd or call 020 7281 1700.