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Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Co-listening, A Skyros Tradition

Co-listening is a Skyros tradition on the unique Skyros holidays offered in Greece, Cuba, Thailand and Cambodia. See It is one of the options available to holiday participants that enable them to bond very quickly and deeply. Often the friendships made on a Skyros holiday are surprisingly long-lasting.

The basic format is that one individual talks and the other listens, then they switch roles, and give each other feedback. This is a completely safe and powerful way of working together, as long as the basic rules are followed. Co-listening shouId be clearly distinguished from co-counselling which has a similar pattern of switching roles, but has a different format and involves different kinds of interventions.

The principles of co-listening
Each participant must have equal time, not to be varied because someone feels that the needs of one are greater than those of the other. About 10 minutes per person and 4 minutes feedback each seems about average. If short of time, even three minutes each will suffice. Better to do it briefly, than to skip it altogether.

When talking, you have a space open to you. Breathe and simply wait to see what happens, it's a bit like thinking aloud. When listening, again simply breathe and just listen. You are not doing anything.  You are just being totally present.

During the talking and listening, it is advisable for the listener to keep approval statements or sounds to a minimum, and to simply be aware of giving the other full attention.

Whatever is said is completely confidential.

Feedback rules
Clarifying and reflecting back what the other said (‘What I heard you saying between the lines, or in your tone of voice or non-verbal messages was…’).

Or saying how you felt about it (‘I felt annoyed, sympathetic, loving, etc’. but not ‘I felt that…’ and giving a thought).

You do not have to repeat back what the person has said, but simply to reflect back in a way that makes the person feel heard and understood.

Please do not
Make interpretations (eg, ‘I think this is because of how your mother treated you).
Give advice (eg, ‘Why don’t you…?’).
Approve/rescue (‘You’re not ugly.  You have a lovely smile’).
Disapprove/criticise (‘You’re not doing as well as you think’).

Choosing a Partner:

Your co-listening partner should be someone you feel comfortable with. If you use it as an opportunity to get close to someone with whom you hope to have an intimate relationship the chances are that it won’t work as a co-listening experience.

The exercises:
Stand up and find someone you don’t know very well and sit down with them. Spend a moment silently tuning into yourself, then tuning into each other, then tuning into yourself again. Now person A talks for three minutes saying whatever comes to heart and mind while person B listens. The listener is fully present and listens unconditionally. If intervention seems necessary, a statement like ‘‘Tell me more about X’, ‘X’ being a word that the person has used, or what is the feeling behind X?’ should come in a relatively non-intrusive fashion. At the end of the three minutes person B gives his/her feedback. Then person B’s turn comes and A gives his or her own feedback, afterwards.

Just remember in your feedback, you say what you heard or what you understood the other  person was saying, not only literally, but also between the lines or by their non-verbal communication. You can also express what you felt, but do not offer advice, do not interpret, do not express approval or disapproval and do not attempt rescuing or criticism. At the end say goodbye to your partner non-verbally.

The next exercise is the same but with eyes closed. This won’t suit everyone, and some will love it and some will hate it. For some people closed eyes deepens the experience dramatically and cuts out any interference while for others it is uncomfortable and unproductive. Just try it out, both talking and listening to find out how it is for you, and later you can do what you like.

Confidentiality is a condition which must be observed about everything that occurs in these sessions. So is the principle of equal time. If after a few of days of trying this simple method of talking and listening you find that you strongly prefer more active interaction, then change it by agreement. But continue to observe the principles of equal time and confidentiality and refrain from giving advice, making interpretations, attempting rescuing or resorting to criticism.

If it just becomes a discussion or chat session then go back to the strict rules.

For more experience of this practice of co-listening, join a holiday with Skyros, the leading holistic holiday company. Holidays in Greece this summer run from 21st July through to 21st September and always include good food and great company along with inspiring courses set in stunning locations. Choose from yoga, creative writing, life coaching, sailing, windsurfing, art, mosaics, painting, song, music & more. Skyros, the holiday that lasts long after the suntan fades....

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