(Originally posted at Absolution Mediation)

From a very young age, we tell our children to listen. As we grow older and wiser, we are continually told to listen. While we all know what the word ‘listen’ means, how often do we actually stop and listen?

In the past we have talked about listening (Are you listening with your whole body?) but I would like to focus on one part of active/deep listening. You ready?


That’s right. Thinking. While you are talking, am I thinking of a response? I was teaching a course the about a month ago and was talking about active listening and as someone was asking me a lengthy question, my mind was not present.
It was thinking:
What time is it? Are we on track? How much material do we have left? I wonder if it’s cold out. How can I respond appropriately to this question?

When the man got his question out (it was about different ways to approach active listening) I had to confess what was happening through my mind while he was talking. Sound familiar?

If we are thinking of a response to give the other person while they are talking, are we really listening? Are we catching all that they are saying? Are we understanding the message behind what they are saying?

The answer is NO. We are not fully listening. Try clearing your mind and fully listening to the people around you today. Let me know how it works for you by sending me a tweet at @jasondyk or leaving a comment here!

Views: 55

Comment by John C. Turley on December 16, 2010 at 10:28pm

I recommend that The Werner Institute ADR curriculum devotes some time to active listening and include an active listening module in the basic courses.  I am confident that study will help the NDR specialist to understand the disputant's needs more precisely.



Comment by Jason Dykstra on December 16, 2010 at 10:51pm

Thanks for the comment John,

I think that listening is one of the main aspects of mediation and communication in general.  You need to be able to fully listen to understand what is happening in the past and present to be able to understand where to go in the future.

I agree that listening should be a big part of the curriculum.  Thanks for your feedback




Comment by Jeff Thompson on December 16, 2010 at 11:38pm

Yes John and Jason-  A great quote I use often in my trainings is

"The opposite to listening is waiting to speak."

Before we can effectively communicate, we must learn effective listening skills... in my opinion at least :)

Comment by Jason Dykstra on December 17, 2010 at 6:39am

That's a great quote Jeff!  Thanks for sharing!

Comment by John C. Turley on December 17, 2010 at 12:49pm

The parallels between NDR and sales are strong.  One cannot be an effective consultative salesperson without listening actively to the prospect or existing customer.  The same is true as I pursue my new passion for ADR.  I miss great opportunities in both professions by not listening actively and interpreting the input data correctly.  This is another dimension of active listening.  It is important to review the information received through the appropriate lens which oftentimes requires an adjustment of focus or a totally new set of lens on our end. 

Sometimes, the interpretation of the information is simple and straight forward.  For example, I want the solution based on these specifications in a Tiffany blue box to be placed under my Christmas tree by December 24 for under $5,000.  This is exactly what the client wants.  In other cases there is a leap from expressed wants to the actual needs. For example, there are greater needs to fulfill that may only be addressed by probing further and asking more precise and targeted questions to go below the surface.  The need behind the Tiffany box is that the client is in the dog house with his wife because he gave her a vacuum cleaner with dual intake bags for their 10th wedding anniversary.  The need is to get back on track with his wife. The Tiffany gift is a means to achieve this end.  Again, the skill is not to get too fancy and sophisticated but to address the expressed as well as the unmet needs.  "OK, would you be interested in other ideas that will help to repair your relationship with your spouse?  May I ask a few questions before I suggest some additional ideas for you to consider? 

This is where the interpretative skills come into play and the specialist becomes more of a consultant.  It is important to know the difference between the two situations and to be in synch with the client based on their interests and more precisely their needs.  It all comes back to listening actively and understanding the wants and ultimately the needs of the client.




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