Posted by: tiggerproject | May 15, 2012

Cultivating Compassionate Listening


I was recently on a plane ride and sat next to a brother and sister duo in their late 40s, early 50s. From the time we sat down, they were boisterous, commenting on the flight attendants and cracking each other up. They ordered Bloody Marys and then a second. They continued to be extremely loud. It was very disruptive behavior and I found my annoyance levels rising. They eventually quieted down and tuned into the in-flight movie selection: THE DESCENDANTS. If you haven’t seen this movie starring George Clooney, it’s quite heavy and deals with transcending death, loss and betrayal.  After the movie was over, I engaged a now-subdued sister in conversation. I found out that her mother and grandmother had recently passed away in the same month, and her father was not handling it well. She explained that she and her brother were travelling to visit him every two weeks because he was feeling so lonely and sad. As she talked I saw (and felt) the tremendous pain they were feeling and I inwardly admonished myself for my personal judgments. This brother and sister were using humor and alcohol to feel better but after our conversation we all enjoyed a calmer, quieter plane ride.  It seems that once they had the opportunity to share their story to a listening ear, there was no longer a need to seek negative attention.  When they spoke to each other during the remainder of the ride, they still used humor and joked, but it was no longer at anyone’s expense.  They were relating to each other in a more authentic way.  It is easy to forget that most people are dealing with something, but if we take the time to find out what is happening in their world, our compassionate listening creates intimacy, connectedness and opportunities for healing.  For me, it was a priceless lesson in cultivating my own levels of compassion for others.

ACEs Too High

THE FIRST TIME THAT principal Jim Sporleder tried the New Approach to Student Discipline at Lincoln High School in Walla Walla, WA, he was blown away. Because it worked.

In fact, it worked so well that he never went back to the Old Approach to Student Discipline.

This is how it went down: A student blows up at a teacher, drops the F-bomb. The usual approach at Lincoln – and, safe to say, at most high schools in this country – is automatic suspension.

Instead, Sporleder sits the kid down and says quietly: “Wow. Are you OK? This doesn’t sound like you. What’s going on?” He gets even more specific: “You really looked stressed. On a scale of 1-10, where are you with your anger?”

The kid was ready. Ready, man! For an anger blast to his face….”How could you do that?” “What’s wrong with you?”…and for the big boot…

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