Listening. From the outset, it seems so easy, but in today’s society it seems helping people means less about listening and more about knowing the ‘right thing’ to say or to be able to ‘fix’ people’s problems.
I certainly thought that, and I know many of my peers did too! However, thanks to the Sixth Form listening skills course I’ve come to recognise the value of this skill so often neglected in daily life.
During the course, one of the most striking revelations for me was the importance of body language. The idea that we, as listeners, can unconsciously portray feelings of boredom or disinterest through positions such as slumping.
We also took part in interactive activities to learn how to present different stories. By facing towards or away from each other, we learned that the communication of tone and feelings are far more effective face-to-face so positive, engaged body language is paramount when it comes to effective listening.
Saying less and listening more
Throughout the sessions, we learnt the importance of trustworthiness, confidentiality, and motivation in effective communication. It also opened my eyes to the ways in which I can demonstrate empathy.
Skills I will take forward in life include the power of ‘mmm’ and ‘ahh’. These seemingly small components of a conversation are actually vital in showing your interest and understanding because we learned that feeling better often begins with the validation of emotions. I also learned the value of the ‘good question’ - asking open-ended questions to allow people to express their unique and personal experiences in full.
Applying these skills
The true success of the listening course is the extent to which it provides the Schools with a steady stream of Sixth Form mentors who are supportive and open-minded listeners for younger students in both DABS and DAGS.
I have found mentoring really rewarding. Activities practised in sessions are elements I have brought forward in my own mentoring, to empower the skills and talents of my mentee in our regular weekly sessions.
In a world that currently feels so insecure and uncertain, recognising the true value of listening, of being a person to simply hear and acknowledge the struggles of somebody else, has never been more important.
Emily Elliott, Year 13