Active listening

One of the key purposes of mediation is to improve communication.

The four components of communication

Communication is made up of four elements. A sender, a receiver, a message and a channel (how the message is transmitted)

When people are in conflict they often choose a communication method that avoids a communication channel that requires direct contact such as speaking to the other person.

Email messages, text messages, using a go-between are very common as is one or the other person refusing to communicate at all.

Communication in Mediation

In mediation (unless we are practicing shuttle mediation) we ask people to speak directly to each other about their fears, concerns, underlying interests and personal objectives.

This can be very difficult if they have been limiting direct communication for a long time.

As a mediator part of your role is to facilitate active and empathetic listening.

What is Active Listening?

Active listening is a from of listening that requires the listener (receiver) to fully concentrate on what the speaker means rather than just listening to the words said.

When actively listening:

  1. the listener pays attention to the speaker’s words, their body language, and the situation. Are they congruent? Is there a miss match? An active listener will ask a question to understand why.
  2. an active listener listens for both what is said and what is not said. Are there gaps in what is being said? Is it clear enough to you or do you need to ask some clarifying questions?
  3. an active listener tries to understand the speaker’s intended message, notwithstanding any mistake, mis-statement or other limitations of the speaker’s communication. Are there barriers such as accent, low vocabulary, distress or some other reason the speaker isn’t communicating effectively? How can you as a listener make sure you understand what they are trying to say?
  4. an active listener controls his inner voices and judgments which may interfere with his or her understanding the speaker’s message. Are you listening or mentally denying, debating, discounting the importance or otherwise trivialising the concerns of the speaker?