Validation Training Institute

VTI Blog

The Power of Listening

By: Fran Bulloff, VTI President

Sometimes we feel like no one is really listening to us; no one is taking our concerns seriously. Ask any wife if she believes her husband when he says: “I’m listening,” when his nose is buried in the sports section of the newspaper, or any mom whose kid is closed off playing video games or grandparent whose little ones are mesmerized watching videos on tv. They may hear your voice, but they are not listening to the message. They prefer to be distracted by other stimuli which divert their attentions from conversations. I believe that much of the protesting in the United States would not continue to be happening if others, particularly police and authorities, would actually listen. The core issues such as racial inequality and police brutality are deep and so emotionally powerful that a simple nod, appeasement, or violent response won’t help to heal the grief, the sense of loss, the despair and insecurity. Too many people are carrying deep emotional loads inside without feeling heard.

One of the essential skills of the Validation method is effective listening. I have written before about Centering techniques to remove distractions and help achieve a Validating attitude which allows true empathy to exist with an older adult who has cognitive decline. That older woman probably feels like no one has been listening to her cries for help when she calls out for her mother, her anger over abandonment when she asks persistently when her deceased husband is coming to take her home, her frustration when traditional speech now eludes her and she is left with only repetitive rocking or pacing as outlets.

When we surveyed Validation teachers around the world and asked which is the toughest Validation technique to master, the overwhelming answer was How to Find the Preferred Sense. We know that people perceive the world using different senses and respond to learning in different ways. Most of us are Visual—we prefer to see our memories in pictures, dreams, or descriptive language. Others respond better to Auditory cues— they capture a moment through sound, a shared song, or perhaps a tone of voice. Still others are Kinesthetic— they relate to movement and feelings and may respond to the atmosphere and physical touch. The Validating individual must listen closely to determine what kinds of words or actions are preferred and then try to match them by using appropriate vocabulary, rhythm and tone, touch or movement to connect. That Validating individual does not digress into sharing his or her own experience or that of a friend. He does not try to find a cure for what ails the other person.  He focuses on listening to the find the sensory words or actions which will make a connection and build trust.

VTI has developed a new video called “How to Find the Preferred Sense,” which may help you to become a more effective listener.