Listening is under – rated. We take it forgranted as something that we know how to do. Teaching deep compassionate listening is part of learning how to do restorative justice and certainly how to be in Circle.
Listening without judgement is really hard. We make split second judgements about what we agree and disagree with about the person speaking. Our brains index information and to file it, it needs labeled. Judging is a natural and normal response so we can file away details, opionions and information for further use.
Listening is to witness another while suspending ourselves. When we really give people this, it allows us to access a place within us. A place the recognizes and connects with the speaker. This is empathy.
I was asked how to teach empathy. I put down our booklets, invited others to do the same and I had a storytelling round. We related stories about restored connections. The stories were followed by a round of one word responses to the stories. The comments were: powerful, emotional, wow, enlightening. I went back to the question.
How do you teach empathy? You teach listening.