Active Listening: Carl Rogers-Style

Yesterday, as we reviewed Rogers’s Humanistic ideas on psychotherapy, we discovered that Rogers’s client-centered therapy requires the therapist to use active listening and exhibit “genuineness, acceptance and empathy.”  Enter empathic, active listening and a discussion about the need for more active listening and some powerful words from Rogers:

“Hearing has consequences.  When I truly hear a person and the meanings that are important to him at that moment, hearing not simply his words, but him, and when I let him know that I have heard his own private personal meanings, many things happen.”

I have noticed that the more deeply I hear the meanings of the person, the more there is that happens. It is as though he were saying, ‘Thank God, somebody heard me.  Someone knows what it’s like to be me.’”

[David G. Myers, Psychology, Ninth Edition (New York: Worth, 2010)]

That was my “WOW” moment, my “Eureka” for the day.  Reading those words aloud to my class led me to ask them to pause and reflect to think about how different their world might be if they really listened-Carl Rogers-style.

We live in an age of distraction when many of us are staring at the Tweets, Instagram or Tumblr posts of our virtual world while we are “listening” to the person right in front of us.  What will happen when we start really listening-when we listen Carl Rogers-style?  Parents, what will happen when we listen to our children?  Teachers, what will happen when we listen to our students? Husbands to our wives? Wives to our husbands? Salespeople to our clients? Managers to those we Manage? Physicians to their Patients? Leaders to the Led?

I’ve made one significant change since my “Eureka” moment yesterday and it’s simple, but I am excited to see the difference that it makes.  I’ve resolved to put my phone away when I am walking the school hallways.  Oh yeah, this friendly, open psychology teacher had made a habit of getting his phone out while walking the hallway the few times I escaped the walls of my classroom to get outside in the FL sun.  My excuse was that once outside and away from Internet firewalls with better coverage I could at least sneak a peek into my virtual world.  Yesterday, phone in hand I walked by a school leader who was monitoring the hallways during a class change.  Each time I passed her, she failed to notice me or others around.  I couldn’t catch her eye for a friendly greeting.  I said to myself, “this is her opportunity to connect with students, teachers, and parents walking by and she is buried in her I-Pad” and then I noticed the phone in my own hand.

Today:  My phone is in my pocket as I walk the hallway open to new connections.  Thank you Carl Rogers!

Like what you read here?  Let’s connect on Twitter: Coach John Hines@LrnTchCchGrw

1 thought on “Active Listening: Carl Rogers-Style”

  1. John, you again raise some interesting issues. For Carl Rogers ‘Active Listening’ was a critical component to his counselling technique. Many schools employ counsellors who are well versed in these techniques. That said, empathic active listening should be in the tool kit of every 21st Century Teacher. As a school leader, you often use these techniques to help give student voice to their issues. It is equally useful with staff interactions. As a system leader, you often use the same technique when in dialogue with school leadership teams. The genius of this approach is that it is collaborative whilst requiring not a lot of talking. It is amazing what you hear when using this approach. It is particularly useful when working with the terminally ill. Like the student, it gives voice and agency to their issues and concerns. When used in conjunction with other methods such as Edward De Bono’s Lateral Thinking, it can be a real tool that allows students to problem solve. Active Listening also respects the professional boundary between counsellor and patient, teacher and student. It is about giving them tools to help them through life. “The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change” (Carl Rogers).

    Thanks for the stimulating, thought provoking blog.

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