Four Techniques to Promote Active Listening

Susan Ingram, Esq ( discusses four techniques she uses to promote active listening while mediating her divorcing clients.

In my last blog article, I discussed the role of Active Listening in conflict resolution. The importance of Active Listening cannot be overstated. It is only when both people listen in this way that they can begin shifting from their hard positions to more constructive ground where they are able to meet their own needs as well as those of the other person.

Here are some techniques that I use as a mediator to help my clients “get unstuck” and move their conversations to Level 2 (Active) Listening:

Reflecting: I reflect back what I believe I’ve just heard the speaker say. This gives the speaker an opportunity to confirm that I’ve heard it correctly or, if not, to explain it differently.

Restating: I may clarify, in slightly different words, what the speaker has said, if I believe the new language is more helpful. Then I’ll check with the speaker to make sure I’ve gotten it right.

Summarizing: At certain points, I may summarize where we are in discussing key issues. By doing this, I condense the concerns of the parties to what I believe are the essential points and ask for their input to make sure we are all on the same page.

Reframing: Sometimes I may reframe a particularly abrasive statement so that I am still getting at the core of the person’s concerns without including accusations or unproductive language that tends to take the discussion back to Level 1 Listening.

My goal in all of this is to give each of the parties an opportunity to speak about their concerns while I help them clarify their thoughts – so that both the listener and the speaker has a better understanding of his or her needs. This is very much of an organic process. During any given session, we may at different times go in and out of using these various techniques. Ultimately, Active Listening helps to build trust and empathy between the parties so that they can resolve their conflict in a more satisfactory and productive manner.

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5 responses on “Four Techniques to Promote Active Listening

  1. Karen

    Great article! Active listening is the key to developing a level of understanding that can lead to open honest communication and problem solving. You did a beautiful job of presenting this. Thanks.

  2. Ron Baker

    I have used Susan’s approach for many years and found it effective. It fosters collaboration, which is the end goal of mediation. Most people just want to know they are being heard, respected and treated with fairness.

  3. Jagoda

    These are core listening skills, Susan, and you do a nice job of simply and clearly laying them out. I thought you’d be interested in an exchange I once had. A man I worked with once told me that he found reflecting and restating by others of his words to be reductionistic. He preferred it when people demonstrated their understanding through their behavior: what they said or did next. This hasn’t stopped me from using such listening skills, but has increased my awareness about how they might across.

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