That is an intentional typo. I’m going to try to explain the kind of listening that works best in Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circles. Not listening to respond, not active listening so you can reframe and respond. The kind of listening that is free of judgement. Listening that could be called ‘bearing witness’ to another person. What does to bear witness mean?
I got to explore this with a small group of volunteers we were working on their skills to become Cirlcekeepers at SCVRJP. I used a volunteer behavior to make my point. A great listener, yet and responder in a verbal Mmmm, when he hears something he really understands. Great in any other setting. In the context of listening in Circle, we ask that all judgement be removed from Circle. Judgements that are positive and also those that are negative. Even when we toss in an affirmation of Mmmm, we aren’t honoring the talking piece.
The role of the person without the talking piece is to understand the other talking. That includes refrain from judgement. That includes hearing the whole share of a person. I believe (informed by many, many experiences) that when we listen without those judgements, the speaker finds a way to their deep, inner truth, and beings to speak to their solutions. I was doing a presentation and a few in the audience had been in Circle. A young man stood up and offered that when you share in Circle, you learn about yourself, you find out who you are in what you say.
Our training group really explored this topic. Someone realized that a head nod, means “I heard you, now move on”. Someone else shared frustration when speaking to someone who is agreeing with you, but knowing that they don’t really understand what they say they are agreeing to.
In my head, I’, running what ‘nay-sayers’ might think of this post. That is not judgement free. What I need to share, is that we do more in Circle, once people are listened to in this very deep, personal way, an openness to understanding, new ideas, deeper empathy and compassion can emerge. To get to a deep place, a deep connection, this type of listening is necessary.
In training sessions, I work hard to give the deep connected experience of Circle. If you are going to be Keeping effective and powerful Circles, it is important to really understand the fundamental things, like the power of the talking piece, and the role of it being much, much deeper than to simply dictate who is speaking.
The bare over bear. Metaphorically bare of your own need to comment, bare of your own judgement, bare of anything to fully receive and understand another human being. I do think we see the actions of others through the lens of our own experiences. We need to understand others (different that see others). The empathy we create in Circle by being bare listeners, creates a new level and energy of empathy that others can receive. I hope you will give this kind of energy a try.