The Art of Listening/Martin Rosenfeld, JD

Posted on August 29, 2015

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There is one quality that the mediator and the parties to the mediation need to share. It is the art of listening. It is difficult to proceed with any negotiation if a party has the feeling that they are not being listened to.  In a recent post at mediate.com, Mediator Nancy Foster, JD wrote on the topic of “Good Communication Starts With Listening”. Ms. Foster presents the basic premise that listening is a basic form of communication. But more than listening is needed. A party needs to exhibit “good” listening behaviors. This is most important as 85% of communication involves non-verbal  behaviors. Eye contact is a basic requirement so a party knows they are being heard. Body language and posture creates a feeling of being heard and taken seriously. The lack of distraction or fidgeting is likewise of great importance. Added to the non-verbal communication is the verbal communication. This can take the form of asking questions that encourage more than a simple “yes” or “no” response, an invitation to talk about something (e.g. “Can you tell me more about that?”) and at times a silence that indicates thought is being given to what has been discussed. It is not simply what you say. It is also what you do not say.

Listening is an art. Perhaps we can sum it up by saying that you should treat others as you prefer to be treated yourself. Listening need not mean agreement. It does imply that you are treating the other party (or parties) with the respect and dignity they deserve. Good listening will go a long way towards getting to Win-Win in the mediation process.

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