What does it mean to listen?

Posted by on Aug 3, 2018 • 2 minute read

At 5th Place we have a different take on what it means to listen and why we listen.

 

What does it mean to listen?

What does it mean to listen? I mean truly listen?

Is it about listening to reply? That space where we formulate our response while the other is talking, ready to blast our words out as soon as we can.

Then there’s active listening? A process where the listener endeavours to pay attention, without distraction, and provide verbal and nonverbal messages to show that they are actually listening.

Could it be about reflective listening? Here the listener repeats to the other what they’ve heard, albeit in a slightly different way, to confirm that what was originally said has been heard.

Another, widely proposed view, is that we need to listen to understand. This comes from Steven Covey’s habit of first seeking to understand. Also referred to as empathic listening, the goal of this kind of listening is to understand the other person as fully and completely as possible.

At 5th Place we have a different take on what it means to listen and why we listen. We listen to hear.

We listen to hear.

What we mean about this, is that in the listening we create a holding space. We don’t try to understand anything nor do we unnecessarily repeat anything back. It’s about giving the speaker enough time and room to connect to themselves and feel whatever they need to, without any input from us. It’s not about us or about our need to understand. It’s about the person doing the speaking. Our listening role is to support them in the best way possible.

From a facilitation and coaching perspective this translates into building a safe container for the other person to let go of all their defenses and constructs around what they should or should not be doing with their feelings.

No need for content or story

We have a philosophy that when we work with Shape of Emotion we do not need the content. We do not need to know the story behind your feeling, why you feel this way, or even what you may call this feeling. All we want to know is that you have a feeling you want to work with and that you can find it in or around your body space. This is why we don’t need to listen to understand. There is nothing for us to understand - it could get in the way of doing the work. Listening to understand means going into the story - we don’t do that.

As a Shape of Emotion practitioner my job is to enable my client or trainee to quieten the analytical and judgmental brain. That brain that makes itself known by its commanding, sometimes sneering, often disparaging voice. The voice that makes up stories about who you are, why you feel what you do and whether or not it and you are good enough.  

I listen to hear that voice and gently and firmly move to silence it. I listen to hear the surprise at finding something new and surprising about your feeling. I listen for the soft breath, the thumping heart, the deep sigh. I listen for the soft gasp that says the feeling is gone. I listen for the air to start humming and the light to grow brighter.

Listen to hear is the first of a list of principles that form the bedrock of the work at 5th Place.

Chantal Dawtrey

Chantal loves to learn and loves to work with people who want to learn. She is the co-founder of 5th Place and co-creator of Shape of Emotion.

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