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Listening Through

Two wonderful friends and colleagues of mine, Kate Sharpe and Jeanie Nishimura, wrote a terrific book last year entitled When Mentoring Meets Coaching: Shifting the Stance in Education (2016, Pearson Canada Inc., Toronto, Canada). The authors provide a great resource in this text that supports readers to move from theory to practice and by enhancing mentoring with coaching skills.

One of the skills Kate and Jeanie talk about is listening, which is typically discussed whenever we outline the competencies of many practitioners – coaches, mentors, consultants, mediators and so on. However, I am particularly fond of how these authors talk about the skill of listening in the expression they use – “listening through”.

The importance of listening at any time and certainly, when in conflict, cannot be overstated. Before conflict erupts, for instance, when it is evident to us that the other person is becoming provoked, it is the optimum time to step back and ask, “What’s happening for you?” and listen thoroughly to the crux of their irritation before responding. That is, it is not a time to think of what to say in reaction. Rather, it is a time to hear the other person through.

Similarly, when we begin to feel irritated it is an optimum time to hear ourselves through – internally or with a trusted friend or coach. Asking ourselves the same question, “What is happening for me?” is a simple query also aimed at getting underneath the matter from our perspective. This is just one of many questions to facilitate listening and the following list of Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) are additional ones to ask when you bring to mind a conflict that you sense has the potential for escalating.

  • Considering a sense you have that a conflict is brewing for the other person about something going on between you, what seems to be irritating her or him as far as you know or can tell?
  • If the other person shared her or his irritation with you (as you identified it), what is your reaction just thinking about it?
  • How might that reaction you are experiencing (stated above) get in the way of being able to listen attentively to her or him?
  • If you listened through what the person has to say, what are the possible things you might learn about what is important to her or him? What does that say about what she or he might need from you?
  • If your responses to the previous two questions open up some new reflections, what are they?
  • How might the above reflections help the two of you move forward?
  • If applicable, what is irritating you that the other person is saying or doing?
  • What does your answer to the above question say about what you need from her or him?
  • As you listen through where you are coming from, too, what do you want the other person to know (that she or he might not) that is important to you?
  • What do you think you could ask the other person to feel fully heard? How might you let her or him know you are listening?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?

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