Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Listen to Me

While being a small group leader, many lighthearted memories are made and positive conversations take place. However, at times serious discussions can arise, whether within the group or along the sidelines. As we leaders show the other person(s) how we listen, it sets the tone for the rest of the group and encourages others to follow in the same manner. Active listening is a practice that helps us let the other person know that we are not only listening to them, but that we show them that we care. Within a small group, active listening involves:

Eye ContactWithout eye contact, we tell the other person that they are not worthy of our time. Without eye contact, a phone call would have sufficed. Small groups on the other hand provide a special opportunity to come face to face and bless each other with our undivided attention. Yes, someone else may be standing next to you to get your attention or interrupt your current conversation, or yes, your cell phone may have buzzed with a new text. Nevertheless, resist the urge to look at that phone until your conversation has finished with who you are engaging with first.

Body LanguageWhen speaking with someone (whether standing or sitting), making it a point to pay attention to posture may help communicate your openness to hearing what is being said. For example, folded arms while sitting may reflect a sign of self-protection or frustration, whereas keeping both hands in your pockets while standing may reflect a sign of timidity or nervousness. Whether or not you are self-protecting, frustrated, nervous, or otherwise; that's not the point. The point is how the other individual(s) are interpreting your body language. Appearing open and vulnerable may be a component to helping other group members feel at ease.

Verbal Response
Some of us have heard the recommendation to repeat back what the person said in order to help communicate that you have listened. While this is generally a good practice, it could become robotic if the small group leader does this each time a group member contributes to the conversation. Instead, in the small group setting, it might be easier to pursue the practice of making sure everyone’s contribution is validated. In other words, if the group members are speaking with one another freely and going back and forth with each other, then the leader would not necessarily need to chime in to validate their contributions (they are doing that well enough themselves). However, if someone says a statement or makes a contributing point to the conversation and no other member of the group adds to it, then it would be proper for the leader to acknowledge that group member’s contribution by rephrasing their response, adding to it, or even just simply saying thank you. I know I’ve been a part of groups where I made a statement and the group blazed on without stopping a beat. While I had originally thought it was a good point to make, the group’s lack of response to my comment would leave me wondering if what I said was worth consideration and if I should contribute again. By responding and acknowledging, the group leader is helping establish an atmosphere for the group where thoughts are welcomed and encouraged, and that they will be heard.

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