Supportive Listening

Supportive Listening, which is similar to the constructivist listening of Weissglass (1990), is a practice you may wish to include as a routine at the start of group meetings or course sessions so everyone gets fully present.

  • Split into pairs. Each person has half the time available to be listened to and, even if not talking, to simply be paid attention to.
  • The listener may offer supportive words, but should not interrupt or bring in their own experience. It is enough just to be listening attentively and non-judgementally.
  • Being listened to in this way helps you move through what is distracting you from being clear. It is a way of moving you towards a place where you are able to take initiative in new ways.
  • Just having someone listen to you with no strings attached can bring up strong feelings. Although this can be scary, see it as a positive experience. Try not to damp down these feelings or be embarrassed by them.
  • Supportive listening is done in absolute confidentiality. Afterwards, the listeners must not refer to what is said to anyone, not even to the person who said it.

  • The context determines the topic, e.g., “looking ahead to making a public presentation of my research next week.” However, as is the case of Freewriting, it is OK—indeed important—to let the topic be sidetracked by preoccupations from work and life.

    Weissglass, J. (1990) “Constructivist listening for empowerment and change.” The Educational Forum 54(4): 351-370.