Living in Community

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Greetings Community Group Leaders,

The next Community Group is this Monday, September 22 at 10 am. Please let me know if you are not able to meet with your group during this time.

The Community Groups are designed to be student focused, which means we must listen to them. Below are some tips about listening as a facilitator in a small group setting.

Validate to Show You Truly Hear

Validation means that the person’s reality has been seen as real or true for him.

Listening as a facilitator means to hear the person and to have the person know that you have heard. This means you have to actually say and do things that let her know she has been heard and understood, which takes a little attention and effort.

As Proverbs 18:13 tells us, “He who answers before listening—this is his folly and his shame.” The answer is important, but only after you have really heard and understood the issue, and after the person has understood that you have understood.

The result is that a person feels validated, understood, cared for, attend to—and is better able to go further into whatever she was processing to begin with. In that way, you have facilitated something instead of de-facilitating something.

Empathize to Show You Really Care

Empathy occurs when someone feels that you really enter into his experience and reality. This act adds immediate comfort and connection. People who receive empathy no longer feel alone. Empathy shows that you care, that you see and experience reality from the other person’s point of view.

· Focus on the person. Give him your eye-to-eye attention. Show you care by being fully present.

· Give nonverbal cues such as nodding, or verbal affirmations such as “Hmm…oh, right…I see.” Use facial expressions that match what you are feeling about what she is feeling.

· Use reflective statements to show that you heard. At some point, include all the components he communicated such as feelings, behaviors, and contexts in a statement back to him. For examples, “I can hear that this is really hard” or “Sounds like it is all just too much.”

Content + Feelings = Being Understood

In trying to empathize, listeners sometimes divert the conversation. The key is to stay focused on the speaker’s content and feelings. Don’t rush in and tell about what that reminds you of in your own life. Use statements that encourage more talking, such as “Tell me more.”

Helping the person feel understood also requires that you don’t change the subject, give platitudes, or judge. Avoid spiritualizing. Don’t give out Bible verses when it would show greater love to just listen and understand.

Listening makes the bridge to the heart. There is a time for answers, advice, coaching, confrontation, and teaching. But that time is always after someone is understood and feels understood.

Adapted from Chapter 26 “Making Small Groups Work”