files for an hour seminar on Empathic Listening Skills
(when you burn CD, make sure to indicate "music CD" rather than
"data CD." Click on "Download Listening Skills Seminar" above.
Copies may be distributed 1) as long as they are given away and 2)
the complete seminar is included. This is a public service of the
University of California.
Listening First Aid
[To download the complete hour seminar in MP3 format, click on the "download listening seminar" link on the yellow strip above.]
The Panama Canal may serve as an adequate analogy for the role of
effective listening skills. As a youth, I traversed the canal
several times as we sailed in a freight ship from the port of
Valparaiso in Chile, to New York. Massive lock gates are utilized to
manage the water levels in the canal, so that ships can move from
one direction to another. The water level behind one set of closed
locks can be much higher than that of the next compartment through
which a ship will travel.
We can compare this scene to the state of mind of an individual
suffering from deep emotional wounds, or involved in a serious
interpersonal conflict. With disparate water levels there is a
buildup of pressure behind the closed locks. If one were to open
these lock gates, the flow would be mostly unidirectional. Likewise,
a party who is holding in her emotions needs a release. Such an
individual is unlikely to (1) think clearly about the challenge or
(2) be receptive to outside input from another.
The role of the listener or helper is to allow such an individual
to open the lock gates. When he does, the water gushes out. During
this venting process, there is still too much pressure for a person
to consider other perspectives. Only when the water level has
leveled off between the two compartments, does the water begin to
flow evenly back and forth. The role of the listener is to help
empty the large reservoirs of emotion, anger, stress, frustration
and other negative feelings until the individual can see more
clearly. Not until then, can a party consider the needs of the
other. Perhaps we can think of it as listening first aid.