4 key steps in supportive listening

Mo Groch and Karen Gerdes recently visited Madlala High School in Justicia to provide the Teens Against Drug Abuse (TADA) organisation a workshop on Supportive Listening Skills.

“TADA students are viewed as role models at Madlala High School and they are continually learning how to be supportive of their fellow students” says Mo.

Mo coordinates activities at the Londolozi Digital Learning Centre as well as some of the programs in neighbourhood schools adjoining the Sabi Sands area. Karen is a social work professor at Arizona State University in Phoenix and has focused her research on helping others to develop empathy. Linky Nkuna – the Good Work Foundation Program Coordinator in Justicia – also assisted with the workshop and is the advisor for TADA students.

The students were given an overview of supportive listening skills including:

1) Recognising one’s own emotions
2) “Tracking” the verbal and nonverbal signals of someone else’s emotional state
3) Maintaining a non-judgmental attitude toward others, and
4) Not making assumptions about what someone is thinking or feeling (ask questions).

According to Mo, “the students used the skills in role-plays that were focused on the most pressing challenges they face in their community such as teen pregnancy, alcohol abuse, and smoking. In the role-plays the students modeled excellent supportive listening skills. So often we are aware that another person is anxious but we lack the confidence to reach out. Workshops like these are an important step towards communities and micro-communities that are more able to support each other proactively, positively and with empathy.”

In addition to learning supportive listening and empathy skills, the students were able to practice their English in the role-plays. The students were engaged throughout the process and had a very positive reaction to the information and the opportunity to practice their skills.