Tool 2.1 Good listening is vital for all Faith-Based Facilitation work, and it is used at every step of the FBF process.
Being properly heard and understood helps people feel valued and cared for, and tells them that they really matter. This is one of the best gifts we can give someone, especially someone who has lost hope. Even if there is very little we can do to help in practical terms, our gift of compassionate listening can soften the pain and suffering.
In addition good listening will save us from making mistakes. When we listen well, we assess problems more accurately and are better able to support those seeking a way forward, rather than only half listening because we are wanting to intervene with our own ideas or perspective. Even worse, we can find ourselves offering a solution before we have understood the problem. Techniques for good listening may help but on their own they are not enough. Good listening begins in the heart!
Good listening skills include:
Giving the speaker our undivided attention, which is much more easily said than done, especially if there are a lot of people to be listened to and time is limited. It is also difficult in a noisy environment or when we are distracted by other things going on around us. Whatever the difficulties, it is worth making this a high priority.
Showing attention by body posture, and occasional gestures or sounds of encouragement. Show interest in the person speaking - do not interrupt.
Reflecting back what the speaker has just said, often beginning with phrases such as 'So, as you see it...' or 'Can I check that I have fully understood what you are saying?'
Paraphrasing or putting what the speaker has been saying into your own words, beginning with phrases such as, 'What I think you are saying is...' or 'It sounds as if...' Good use of paraphrase nearly always helps the speaker explore further without the need for questions. (This does work! If you don’t believe it, try it out.) When, as a listener, you ask questions, be sure they are designed to help the speaker clarify or explore what he or she is trying to say. Be careful to avoid questions that require them to say what you want to hear (See also Tool 2 Exploring).
Identifying the feelings the speaker has about what they are saying. However, we need to make sure we are noticing and naming the speaker's feelings, and NOT expressing what we think we would feel if we were in that situation.
Summarising: When the speaker has finished, try to sum up what he or she has said as briefly as possible. This helps the speaker know they have been heard, and it helps the facilitator check they understand what was said. Summarising is very important before moving on to the next tool, Exploring Questions.
» A good facilitator is one who talks little. When the work is done and the aim fulfilled, they will say, 'We did it ourselves'. (Lau Tzu, 500 BC)