I. PAYING ATTENTION TO THE SPEAKER (“ATTENDING”):
1. Look at the speaker. Keep the other
persons in view so you can observe their reactions, but generally maintain
eye contact with the speaker.
2. Show that you’re interested in what he/she is
saying. Encourage by unobtrusive use of “yes,” “I see,” “um hum.” Use positive
body cues at appropriate points — nods, smiles, note-taking, furrowed
3. Most of the time, lean slightly toward the speaker.
Keep an open, relaxed posture. Keep your physical movement to a minimum.
4. Engage the speaker by looking for opportunities
to subtly mirror his/her cues. Do not mimic, but do look for ways to be
CONGRUENT. For example, if he/she speaks slowly, match his/her cadence.
5. Draw the speaker out. Say something like, “I’d
like to hear a little more about [subject].”
6. Try to listen for what is NOT being said — what’s
missing that you might expect to hear in the circumstances?
7. Observe HOW things are said — the emotions and
attitudes behind the words may be more important than what is actually
said. Look beyond the mere words the speaker uses — remember that much
information is displayed in voice intonation and body language.
8. Say little yourself! You can’t listen while you’re
9. Show that you’re listening and interested by
asking QUESTIONS and FEEDING BACK, REFRAMING and SUMMARIZING. However,
particularly in early stages, be careful not to interrupt the speaker’s
II. ASKING QUESTIONS:
1. Questions serve three basic purposes:
listening (especially in the early, trust-building stage);
organize information (particularly in the problem-solving stage); and
question form what otherwise might be an academic statement — for
example, to test reality (most often in problem-solving and closure stages).
2. Generally, questions should be open-ended, not
closed-ended. Closed-ended questions can be answered “yes” or “no,” or
with a specific answer like “two” or “January.” They may encourage the
answerer to stop talking. Open-ended questions cannot be answered so simply,
and encourage the speaker to talk and explain in complete sentences. Open-ended
questions are good because they invite a person to open up and tell his/her
story. Examples of open-ended questions: “Tell me more about [subject],”
“what happened next,” “how did you feel when that happened,” “what would
you like to see as an outcome.” Use close-ended questions exceptionally
— only to increase control over the flow of information or to confirm
certain important facts.
III. FEEDING BACK, REFRAMING, AND SUMMARIZING:
1. When the speaker pauses, there’s an opportunity
to confirm that you’ve been listening and that you understand by FEEDING
BACK what you’ve heard/observed to the speaker. It also is a way to check
that your perception of what you think you heard/observed is accurate,
as well as a way to validate for the speaker what he/she is feeling.
2. To feedback, repeat or paraphrase what the speaker
has said (or displayed as unspoken feelings). Examples: “so, when that
incident happened, you felt like . . .”, “it sounds like an important issue
for you is how to deal with . . .”, “what I think I’m hearing is that you
really need to. . . .”, “I can see that you have strong feelings about
that.” Pause expectantly to let the speaker react. Common signs that you’ve
done it right: the speaker will nod vigorously and/or respond, “yes, and
. . . .”
3. Sometimes, repeating the last couple of words
of a speaker will encourage him/her to go on, but you generally do not
want to repeat verbatim what the speaker said — you may sound like a mimic!
Paraphrase instead. However, DO be conscious of particular words that seem
important to the speaker and use them, if appropriate, in your paraphrasing.
4. REFRAMING is a special way of feeding back, and
is one of the Mediator’s most important tools. It is restating what a party
has said to capture the essence, remove negative overtones, and move the
process forward. Reframing also is a way to translate a positional statement
into a statement of interests or needs. Example: a separated spouse says
angrily, “He’s so irresponsible that I never can depend on him to pick
our child up on schedule.” Simple feedback might be, “so it really bothers
you if he isn’t on time to pick up Johnny” — while a reframed response
might be, “so a regular schedule is important for you and Johnny.” Either
response may be appropriate, and the difference is subtle; the first might
be better at an early point in trust-building, while the second might be
better later, during problem-solving.
5. Summaries are part of most feedback, but sometimes
you want to focus particularly on a summary. At major transitions, such
as after one Party has told his/her story and before you turn to the other
Party, do an overall summary of major points, and ask for confirmation.
6. Generally use neutral language. Example: one
Party says the other was “hysterical.” In feeding back, you might say the
Party was “crying.” A “liar” becomes a person who “disagreed” or “sees
differently.” Be careful not to get so pretentious that the Party feels
you’ve misrepresented their point of view.
IV. MANAGING THE FLOW OF COMMUNICATION:
1. Stick to the speaker’s subject. You may want
to go to something else, but give the speaker time to finish.
2. Don’t be too quick to try to move on when the
speaker repeats things. Remember, repetition may indicate: (a) that the
subject is very important to the speaker, and (b) that the speaker needs
to feel that you’ve really heard him/her on the subject. This is a cue
that you need to feedback what the speaker is saying.
3. If repetition does go on too long you can try
saying something like, “Well, it’s clear to me that [subject] is very important
to you. Is there anything else that’s also important for us to understand?”
4. Be comfortable with silence. Usually, one of
the Parties will speak up soon enough. Use silent cues — pauses, turning
to another Party expectantly.
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