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Ombuds 20:9 / Skilled Listening

The 9th Ombuds 20 (5/13/20) focused on the art and a little science of listening. We focused on Step 2 (Clarify Perceptions) of Dudley Weeks Eight Essential Steps to Conflict Resolution. Of course we started the session with a short meditative practice, some breathing to catch our breath, let by Katie Belusa from NC State Wellness and Recreation. We spent our time on a river or stream bank noticing our thoughts as they flowed by!

Next we returned to Weeks work on resolving conflict, primarily the idea of clarifying perceptions between people who are in conflict. Weeks explains:  Step 2 Clarify Perceptions – “If we perceive something to be a certain way, even if we are incorrect, in our minds it is that way, and we often base our behavior on that perception.” Weeks process invites us to clarify “perceptions of the conflict, of the self, and of the conflict partner.”  This matchs my 30+ years in the conflict resolution field – people’s perceptions are their reality. Thus, in order to create an opportunity to resolve an issue perceptions must be addressed.  The key tool is listening.

We’ve all no doubt heard about and maybe received training in “active listening” yet I prefer a broader term – “skilled listening.”  It starts with you being curious about another persons perceptions. That’s right you start by listening first! Research shows that when people feel listened to, then their blood pressure goes down – they get calmer. So ask for other perceptions first. Additionally, when you listen skillfully, then you model how to do it for the other person. When its your turn to share, the other person is much more receptive to listen and hear what you have to say.

You want to be curious about the other person’s perceptions and you want to be compassionate. You can show compassion and understanding even if you don’t agree (separate the ideas from the person). This is the hard part where you might take a few deep breaths for yourself. Being willing to understand while you disagree or at least think you disagree (after all perceptions are not necessarily the actual reality) is very difficult work yet you can do it! Be patient, be curious, be compassionate toward the other person.

The ombuds role is designed to help you navigate your workplace experience with independent, confidential, informal and impartial conflict engagement services. Get the help you want and need – Go Ombuds.