Advanced Communication Listening Skills

Listening Skills
Lawyers Assistance Program
Facilitated by Robert Bircher
Effective Listening Skills
• To be a great communicator, the first
step is being a good listener
• Many lawyers believe they are good
listeners, but on a 5 step level of
listening skills most only rank a level 2
• Lawyers are usually good at
responding to content or the cognitive
• Effective communication exists
between two people when the receiver
interprets and understands the senders
message in the same way the sender
intended it
Difficulty Listening
• Most people have difficulty listening because:
• They are preoccupied with something else
• They are waiting for a chance to put forth
their view and are just waiting for an opening
• They are formulating a rebuttal to what the
speaker is saying
• They are listening to their own beliefs about
what is being said
• They are evaluating and making judgments
about the speaker or the message
• They don’t ask for clarification when they
don’t understand
Listening Modes
• Competitive or Combative listeningwhen we are more interested in
promoting our own point of view than
in understanding or exploring someone
else’s view-we lie in wait for an
opening to disagree
• Passive or Attentive Listening-we are
genuinely interested in hearing and
understanding the others persons point
of view. We are attentive but passively
listen-we assume we are understanding
but don’t confirm it at all
Reflective or Active
• This is most useful and important
listening skill. In active listening we
are also genuinely interested in
understanding what the other person is
thinking, feeling, wanting or what the
message means, and we are active in
checking out our understanding before
we respond with our own message. We
restate or paraphrase our understanding
of their message and reflect it back to
the sender for clarification. This
verification or feedback process is
what distinguishes active listening and
makes it effective
Benefits of Reflective
• You demonstrate:
• Your desire to understand how
the person is thinking and feeling
• Your willingness not to judge
• Your belief the person is
• Your respect and willingness to
accept the others thoughts and
• Your willingness to enter their
reality (world view)
Benefits of Reflective
• There is a difference between hearing the
words and listening for the message
• When we listen effectively we understand
what the person is thinking and/or feeling
from the others own perspective
• Our own worldview may be different but to
work with anyone we must accept and
understand deeply their internal reality.
Understanding or accepting does not mean
agree with
• To listen effectively we must be actively
involved in the communication process, and
not just listening passively
• This process also clears up any potential
Empathy Before Solutions
• People don’t care how much you know
until they know how much you care
• People need to be heard and
acknowledged before they are willing
to consider an alternative or change
their point of view
• It is much easier for a person to listen
to another point of view when they
know you are listening to and
understand their point of view
• This process identifies and makes
obvious flaws in the persons reasoning
when they hear it reflected back to
Increasing Depth of
• Reflective listening allows the
person to go very deep into their
own process and reveal more
about themselves
• It is much more effective than
questioning which often causes
people to clam up and become
• It demonstrates:empathy, respect,
trust, understanding and caring
How To Listen
• We will be doing a number of practice
exercises to show you how to do this
and to increase the depth of your
listening ability
• You will be practicing this in dyads
and we will demonstrate what it looks
• Basically you paraphrase and reflect
back exactly what you are hearing-you
add nothing, change nothing, modify
nothing-you remove entirely your point
of view
• This means getting your own mindstream out of they way-in some ways it
is like meditation
Reflective Listening
• After our demonstration you will get
into dyads (sitting in a chair face to
• Decide who will be the talker and the
• The listener will use their own words
to verbalize the message-try not to just
parrot the words back or you will
probably annoy the speaker
• If you are not sure of what they said or
meant check it out-don’t assume
• This is a listening exercise not a
What to Reflect
You can reflect back:
An account of the facts
The persons thoughts and beliefs (content)
Feelings and emotions (affect)
Wants, unmet needs, or motivation
Hopes or expectations
At first this is very difficult to do-there are 5
levels of the depth of reflection (empathy)
• The main obstacle is getting away from your
own judgments and thinking and the
temptation to offer solutions before you
understand what is going on for them
Listening Tips
• The speaker must stop frequently
to allow the listener to respondmost people can only remember a
few sentences worth of data
• If the listener is in doubt about the
message they need to check it out
• Don’t respond to just the meaning
of the words-look for the feelings
or intent beyond the words
Do Not Ask Questions!
Except to clarify
• In this process questions only take the speaker
away from what they are thinking or feelingparticularly disastrous are “why questions”
• Only clarification-type questions are useful:
I’m not sure I understood you is this what you
• If you don’t understand what they are saying
let them know, or ask them to say it another
• Be empathic and nonjudgmental. You can be
accepting and respectful of the person and
their feelings and beliefs without invalidating
or giving up your own position or without
agreeing with the accuracy and validity of
their view
Helpful Phrases
• If you think you understand:
• I’m sensing that ,I wonder if, I get
the impression that, It seems that,
What I hear you saying is, You
mean, You believe
• If you don’t understand;
• Could it be, I wonder if, I'm not
sure I’m with you but, Correct me
if I’m wrong but, This is what I
hear you saying
Thoughts And Feelings
• Some people are unclear as to the difference
• Feelings usually have a body sensation and
are usually one word-anger, fear, sadness etc
• Thoughts are mental constructs and use
several words
• Prefacing with “I feel” doesn’t mean
anything-I feel Canada has a better hockey
team, I feel my mom doesn’t respect me, I
feel I should get out of law, I feel my brother
disrespects me- are all thoughts- not feelings
• If you want them to access their feelings you
could say “as you tell me this what emotion
bubbles up for you?” or “where in your body
do you feel this?”
Five Levels of
• There are 5 levels of Empathy as shown by
the example in the attached page
• A level one response is at best useless and
could be harmful –a level five response will
increase empathy and will usually be very
helpful to the person
• It is impossible to achieve these levels
without some practice-if you can achieve
level 3 you are doing well
• We will demonstrate what this looks like
• We will do 3 exercises to improve your skills
here-each one will be more challenging
• Exercise 1-Topic-My relationship with my
mother/father/best friend
• 5 minutes each-2 minute debrief-what was
this experience like for you?-how did it feel?
• Exercise 2-Topic-My top 3 accomplishments
in my life and how I feel about them-focus on
thoughts and feelings
• Exercise 3-Topic- The greatest challenge I
have in my life now/or if you have none- The
greatest challenge I have had in life and how I
handled it-focus on thoughts+ feeling+
deficit(if any) and a possible solution ( the Lap, Psychologist, Doctor,
Interlock,AA etc.) if appropriate
• Set your own boundaries as to what you