I got to teach one of my favorite classes the other day: “Solution Focused Conflict Coaching” and we were focusing a lot on how to help conflict parties to listen to one another with open ears. In conflict, most people listen in order to reply or, even worse, in order to refute the other person.
Here is a lovely facilitation techniques that helps people listen to one another that I stole from narrative therapy. You can find it under “definitional ceremonies” or “outsider witnesses”.
- Explain the process and ask people whether they would like to engage with it.
- Ask who would like to start telling their story (A) and who would like to start by listening (B) and confirm that we will switch roles later.
- Start by strengthening the listening of (B) by asking about a person in B’s life who is a really good listener. Ask B to describe specifically about what this person does that makes the person a good listener. Then ask B to listen like that person. If they notice that they are falling out of listening like that, they should please alert the facilitator and we can take a break to get back to listening.
- Then interview A about what is important. Maybe ask what has changed in the relationship between A and B — maybe something in A changed so that things that were acceptable to A previously are now no longer working. What is important to A that is now challenged in the conflict, where did they learn that this is important in their lives etc.
- After the interview ask B to retell A’s story: What stood out to B? What were some of the words that A used that struck a chord with B? How does the story resonate with B? What will the ripple effects of having listened to the story be in B*s life?
- Then interview A about B’s retelling in the same way.
- Switch roles (2.-6)
- After both interviews ask what has emerged for both — what different understanding is now present? what has become possible now?
To learn more about really interesting techniques like this, you might want to explore the writings of Michael White and David Epston or even come to our 30 hour training on narrative coaching: