By chance I came across an intriguing radio programme on BBC Radio 4; it was called the Listening Project.
The idea behind the project is that people: whether they are family members, friends or partners, have a real conversation with each other. This is obviously recorded for the programme, but the recording is added to a library of authentic conversations as a snap shot of life in the 21st Century. The most interesting conversations are where close family members discuss a significant event: either in one of the person’s lives or something that impacted them both. Not only is there an authenticity around the conversation, but it helps us recognise that everyone has their own version of an event from their perspective.
From my perspective, one of the most intriguing aspects of the project was how engaged both people are in the conversation. To give some operational information on this, they are in a studio with no distractions of mobile phones, screens, other family members. And at least one participant has commented on how powerful this is because it is a true conversation with no distractions. At the moment this a debate as to what happens if England reach the World Cup final; and it clashing with The Men’s Final at Wimbledon. This is particularly relevant to me because I have tickets. Quite rightly Wimbledon bans people from watching something on their own devices; I wouldn’t want adjacent spectators watching the match on their phones: I’ve paid a lot of money to be at a once in a lifetime event for me.
So what are my tips for really listening, when people need to be heard:
- Go somewhere that is quiet
- have no distractions: switch off your phone
- Have enough time to really have a conversation without worrying that you have to rush to another appointment
- Have an element of trust on both sides
- If necessary ask that the conversation and the contents are not repeated.
- Really listen; have good eye contact; try to mirror the other person’s body language and ask lots of questions
If you wish to catch the Listening Project, previous episodes are available on the BBC iPlayer.