May 16, 2012

Living My Moksha - Week 2 "Be AccessibleI"

Day 1 - Tuesday, May 8

When I read that this week's challenge was about being accessible, I wracked my brain trying to figure out what that would mean. While looking through the information package that came early this morning, I quickly realized that this was indeed going to be a challenge. Apparently being accessible has everything to do with "active listening". Huh? Sorry... what was that?

Active listening involves a set of interrelated skills: open-ended questioning, paraphrasing, acknowledging feelings, non-verbal encouragers and summarizing. When used together they effectively communicate to the other person that you want to listen to them and to understand how they see the issue.

As someone who has been criticized for her bad listening skills, I don't like the sound of this.

In my own defense, I don't completely agree that I am a bad listener. I do listen. Really. I just happen to throw my two cents in, albeit 50 cents at a time. I think that somewhere along the way I have picked up the habit of "relating". You know, someone tells a story about a memorable meal or a crazy relative and I chime in with one of my own. So, clearly, I have work to do.

I think that the best way to approach this is to break it down into manageable chunks - one of the above skills at a time. My apologies in advance to those that I will be practicing on.

Day 2 - Wednesday, May 9

Did I mention that part of this week's challenge is to journal every night? Ha! Check!

Yesterday's foray into Active Listening was a bit of a wash.

First of all, my "listenee" was less than willing to bare his soul, and, full-disclosure I may or may not have been 75% hysterical at the time. Or 90%. What can I was an emotional day.

Today I focused on Active Listening Skill #1 - Using Open-ended Questions
Open-ended questions invite people into the discussion and require an individual response. They cannot be answered with merely a “yes” or “no”. Open-ended questions often begin with “What” or “How” such as, “What did you think about that?” or “How was what I did a problem for you?” Open-ended questions also help the other person consider what is important to them about the issue.

I can't say if I did ok on this challenge or not; I really didn't have that many opportunities to practice. Save for about an hour spent with my fella (most of it in rush-hour traffic), and a quick snack break with my bestie, I spent the day either completely alone or in front of a Group Power class with a mic strapped to my head. And, trust me, it's hard to ask open-ended questions when you're telling people what to do.

Day 3 - Thursday, May 10

Active Listening Skill #2 - Paraphrasing
Miscommunication happens when we assume we understand, but haven’t checked out that assumption. When we do, we may find that we are misinterpreting some of what was said, or missing some key element that is important to the other person. Paraphrasing not only checks for clarity and accuracy of understanding, but also lets the other person know they have been heard and understood.

Since I didn't get much of a chance for meaningful conversation yesterday, I offered my fella a ride to work. While I had him captive in the passenger seat, I hit him with the one-two punch of open-ended questions and paraphrasing. And he just thought I was paying attention.

But, seriously, it really did make a difference in our conversation. A couple of times, I wanted to jump in with an anecdote, but I caught myself and let R continue. And, you know what? The universe didn't stop because I didn't share my pithy observations. Go fig.

What did I learn? Asking the right kinds of questions PLUS paraphrasing helped me to understand the more technical details of the conversation. Maybe there is something to this after all...

Day 4 - Friday, May 11

Active Listening Skill #3 - Acknowledging Feelings

Active listening requires the acknowledgement of not only the meaning of what people say but also the other person’s emotional response. Acknowledging emotion deepens our understanding of the issue and the meaning it has for the other person. It also communicates to the other person that you not only understand their words but also their feelings.
Examples are,
“I can see you are still feeling a bit angry about what happened the other day.”
“You are proud of the improvements you made and feel that they haven’t been acknowledged.”
“You are worried about what new demands may be made on you.”

Did I do this? Um... no, probably not. I say "probably not" because, to be honest, I wasn't really paying attention. Just too busy enjoying the day off with my fella.

I will say, though, that actually *thinking* about listening has made a big difference in how I approach conversations. I find myself slowing down more and waiting for the other person to speak, rather than trying to move the conversation along, or change the topic.

Day 5 - Saturday, May 12

When you are working on bettering something about yourself, such as active listening skills, there comes a point when you realize that not everyone is on the road to self-improvement and your efforts are not being mirrored. As much as I want to get better at this, sometimes I feel like I'm not being listened to and, in all honesty, it made me wonder why I am bothering with this whole business.

It's something that I struggle with from time to time, and I don't know if it's a matter of not being heard, or just simply poor retention on the part of the listener. I used to have a friend who would pull key words or phrases out of a conversation and remember them, but out of context or with the wrong supporting info. After sitting down to more than one dinner that I was allergic to, or being excluded from yet another activity that she "thought I wouldn't be interested in" (but was really something that I loved to do), I gave up.

I don't know why I am bringing this up now. I guess it's just weighing on my mind lately. I guess that's the danger of too much introspection. It's kinda like cleaning out the attic - you never know what you'll find hidden under an old coat or a dusty scrapbook.

Day 6 - Sunday, May 13

Today was Mother's Day (or, for some, Smother's Day)! Since I wouldn't be a mother without the Mascot, I let him plan the whole day - from sleeping-in (him, not me), to burgers for lunch (if you can call a giant mushroom a burger...and I can), to an afternoon of theatre (ok, an afternoon *in* a theatre watching The Avengers), to a fancy home-cooked meal (part of it was cooked the day before, so sue me). When all was said and done, the boy declared it the best Mother's Day ever. I didn't get a tea party, an afternoon of gallery hopping, or a manicure, but kinda have to agree. It was a lot of fun...and, as a bonus, it has given me a whole pocketful of ammo to use for future activities.

What has all of this got to do with listening? Not much, but part of my assignment this week is journalling, and this has everything to do with that.

Since I am here, though, I suppose that I could touch on:

Active Listening Skill #4 - Non-verbal Encouragers
Saying the right words means very little if our body is sending out a different message. If we really want to listen to the other person and understand things from her/his point of view we naturally face the person, make culturally appropriate eye contact, nod our head and lean toward the person slightly. These non-verbal encouragers help us demonstrate to the other person that we are listening and care about what is being said.

This is one of the easiest, yet is sometimes the hardest for me. With our crazy schedules, my fella and I sometimes only get 30 minutes out of a whole day to spend together, and that half hour is often spent in the car, where staring straight ahead and being preoccupied is the norm. Not the best for important conversations, to say the least. Part of our challenge in long-term relationship success will be to find, or make, time to have proper, non-moving conversations. We do side-by-side really well - in the car, running, watching tv - but we probably could use a little more practice with the face-to-face.

Day 7 - Monday, May 14

Active Listening Skill #4 - Summarizing
Summarizing is about pulling together what has been said over a period of time in a concise manner. It provides an opportunity, like with paraphrasing, for your understanding to be corrected or fine-tuned by the other person. It is also useful to demonstrate the progress that has been made and where you are in your discussion.

To summarize, I made some real progress this week. At least I *think* I have. The next step will be to sit down with my fella and see if he noticed a difference. Face-to-face, of course.

No comments:

Post a Comment