Project Gabriel

Project Gabriel is an international Ministry to help pregnant mothers with basic necessities.  They can be reached at  817-534-0814.

This is the communication section of their training manual which I wrote.


The tongue of the wise brings healing.  Proverbs 12:18

As a Gabriel Angel, your role is to develop a trustful relationship with a mother in a crisis pregnancy.  Trust is built on good communication.  It takes time, skill and effort.  The mother will trust when she knows you care and want the best for her.  Even when using the interpersonal communication skills taught in this manual there will be times when you feel overwhelmed and speechless. When words fail you, don’t try to talk.  Just sit still and hold her hand. At these times, silently pray the Psalmist’s prayer: “Be still and know that I am God.”  God will give you the grace to be helpful to her even in these difficult circumstances.  Remember, the sad truth is that even with God’s grace pouring on the mother and despite your best efforts, some babies will be aborted.  Try not to be discouraged, God tried to help too, and it is never your fault if the mother aborts.  The good news is that there will be times your efforts will save a baby. 

Keep in mind that, except for the crisis pregnancy itself, every mother’s situation will be different. She may be married, or single; be a teenager or in her thirties; be in an abusive relationship; may or may not know the father; already have children; may have already aborted a baby and may be pregnant as the result of rape or incest.  

In most cases we can be better communicators by learning and applying a few basic skills. You can develop a trusting relationship with the mother by using the following strategies: active listening, understanding the differences between content and feeling, paraphrasing, asking good questions and providing accurate feedback.  It is also important to have a working knowledge of how body language impacts communication as well as an understanding of the concept of validation.  Finally some poor listening is inevitable. These detriments to saving a baby will also be covered.  

When these strategies are applied within a context of love and care, the probabilities of saving a baby greatly increases.  This part of the Training Manual will help you learn these skills so you can increase the probability of saving a baby. 

Active Listening

When an angel listens, they receive information through the spoken word.  The unskilled angel may hear, but not really listen. They may  “turn off” their listening skills if they hear something they don’t agree with.  Other times the unskilled angel doesn’t listen to understand, they listen to respond.  They are concentrating on what they will say when the mother has finished.  The result can be frustrating for both the angel and the mother.  Instead of focusing on what to say to the mother, best practice is that the skilled angel express non-judgmental acceptance.  The Angel's own feelings or responses to the mother are not needed at this time; in fact, the opposite is 
needed.  Focus instead on the mother’s story as she reveals facts and feelings.  The skilled angel can think along with the mother and thus listen actively rather than passively. 
In active listening the angel listens for both content and feelings. Active listening refers to a particular type of listening, listening that leads to a demonstration that the mother has been understood.  The angel demonstrates understanding by summarizing the mother’s content and reflecting her feelings.  Listening to understand the mother’s message from her point of view requires paying attention to both the content and the feelings of her message.  To this end, an angel must prepare to listen by learning communication skills. 

You must not only listen to the words but also to the feelings behind those words.  You must see the world through the mother’s eyes, suspending judgment in order to understand the mother’s thoughts and feelings as she experiences them.  Good listeners reflect the actual situation rather than create a different one.  

Listening for Content- This is usually the easiest type of listening.  It is listening to, paying attention to and trying to understand the words the mother says.  It is simply hearing her message.   

Listening for Feelings- This approach helps when anyone is seeking help for personal crisis.  It shows the mother that her opinions and feelings matter.  Here the angel tries to capture the emotional state of the mother.  The goal of reflection is to help the mother come to a deeper understanding not only of  herself, but also how she can take control of her situation and make good decisions moving forward. 

Listening for feelings helps the Angel understand the feelings behind the mother’s statements. When we seek to understand her feelings, we guard against making inaccurate assumptions and comments based on those assumptions. As Angels, we are sincerely interested in the mother in our care, not merely in her choices.

How does the Angel do this?  Here is how.  Restate the mother’s content and reflect her feelings.

The benefits of doing this are: 

< it identifies the mother’s emotions, validates them, and gives her a new perspective and insight,

< it gives the angel a chance to interpret the mother’s emotions and either confirm them or modify her interpretation,

< builds trust and rapport;

< lets the mother know that the angel is trying to understand and accept her feelings,

< gives the mother the freedom to express her true feelings without shame, deal with them, and experience healing, and

< moves the level of communication from the surface to the root of the problem.

Here are some examples to explain the difference between actively listening for content or feelings.

Example #1- This is nonsensical, but if a computer or a robot stated, “I had three abortions and I plan to kill my fourth child by abortion next week,” the content would simply be, “I had three abortions and I plan to kill my fourth child by abortion next week.”  There would not be any feelings to reflect.

Example #2- If a pregnant mother said, “I had three abortions and I plan to kill my fourth child by abortion next week.” There would be feelings associated with her statement.  Suppose the mother said this while she was crying.  What might be her feelings?  Suppose she had a pentagram tattooed on her head.  What might be her feelings?  Suppose she stared into your eyes with the look that could kill.  What might be her feelings?  Suppose she added to the statement, “I can’t let anyone know I’m pregnant.  My dad will disown me because he is a TV evangelist.”  What might be her feelings?

Paraphrasing Content and Reflecting Feelings

Demonstrating to the mother that you actually listened to her can be easily accomplished by paraphrasing her content and reflecting her feelings.

Paraphrasing Content-  Here the angel simply attempts to communicate that she has been listening by summarizing what the speaker is saying.  You translate the mother’s ideas into your own words. 

When paraphrasing, the angel repeats what the mother says almost word for word. This may feel silly at first, but don’t think you are “parroting” what the mother says. The angel can also paraphrase what the mother says, using her own words.  This is particularly helpful if the mother  gives a lot of information all at once. The angel helps clarify the mother’s thoughts by focusing on the most important parts of the message and restating them in her own words.  Paraphrase the central focus of the conversation.  

When restatement is used properly, it is very effective and not even noticed by the mother. Paraphrasing assures the mother that the angel is listening and cares to listen.  It helps the angel “stay with” the mother.   It lets the mother hear what she has just said and helps her evaluate her own statements.  It encourages the mother to elaborate on what she has said.  Use a concerned, but casual, tone of voice when restating or rephrasing. This encourages the mother to keep talking, and allows her to correct any misperceptions made by the angel.

Paraphrasing is an especially productive way to probe a speaker for more information.  When paraphrasing, the angel should probe rather than evaluate, be specific rather than general and take into account the mother’s needs.  Paraphrasing helps double check your interpretation for accuracy.

Reflecting Feelings- If your feedback is empathetic, you are probably being nonjudgmental as you listen.  Empathetic listeners focus on the mother’s important themes and feelings.  Empathetic listeners also demonstrate a good grasp of paraphrasing because their feedback reflects both the content and feelings of the mother.

Examples of paraphrasing content and reflecting feelings:

Mother: “I think I might be pregnant.”
Paraphrasing Content: “So you think you might be pregnant.”
Reflecting Feelings: Based on the mother’s body language, “Being pregnant frightens you” or possibly, “You look very confused.”
Mother:   “I was planning to go to college.”
Paraphrasing Content:-“Oh, you were planning to go to college.”
Reflecting Feelings: Based on the mother’s body language, “You seem very excited about going to college.”

Mother:   “My folks would just freak out if they knew I was pregnant.  Dad would start yelling and throwing stuff and Mom would just sit and cry her eyes out.  She’ll probably never talk to me again!”
Paraphrasing Content: “In other words, your parents would be pretty upset if they knew you were pregnant.”
Reflecting Feelings: Based on the mother’s body language, “All that seems overwhelming to you” or possibly, “I know it seems overwhelming.  You don’t have all the answers.  Neither do I.” 

Mother:   “I guess I’ll have to tell everybody.  First, there’s Tim; I mean, he is the father.  Then I’ve got to tell my parents; I dread that!  Then I’ve got to tell Jill; she’s my best friend.  She’s probably the only one who’ll understand.”
Paraphrasing Content: “I hear you saying you want to tell your boyfriend, your parents, and your best friend that you’re pregnant.”
Reflecting Feelings: “I heard you say that there are some people who you would feel comfortable telling them you were pregnant” or possibly, “I know we’ve discussed many topics. One that I hear you struggling with is your father.” Asking Good Questions

Questioning involves asking for additional information to clarify your idea of the mother’s message.  The key element of questions is to request the speaker elaborate on information already given.  Good questions can help the mother think about her problems and understand her problem better. 

When you question rather than tell, you empower the mother to begin solving problems on her own, rather than solve them for her.  Good questions also provide the angel with important information the mother might not otherwise volunteer.

Open ended questions are designed to encourage the mother to open up to the angel.  Everyone likes to tell stories, even painful ones.  Open ended questions are invitations, not commands.  They help the mother to extend and elaborate on her beliefs and feelings, not dismiss them with a pat, one-word answer.  Generally, open-ended questions begin with “How” “Which” or “What.” There are exceptions, for example, another good technique is “Tell me about…” 

Examples of open ended questions:

 “How do you feel about your pregnancy?”
 “What makes you feel that you’re not cut out to be a mother?”
 ‘What were the circumstances that led up to him leaving you?”
 “Which living conditions do you think you would like most?”
 “How can I help you to tell your parents that you’re pregnant?”
 “How did you first learn about open adoption?”
 “Tell me about the time when you . . .”
 “Tell me where you see yourself a month from now.  What steps will you take to get there?”  
“What do you see as some chances for reestablishing a relationship with your parents?”
“Who are some people who might help you do this?”

Giving Feedback

An angel can establish rapport, and encourage the mother to continue speaking, by providing good feedback.  Giving feedback is important in maintaining an open and honest relationship.  The angel uses her skill when she shares her own feelings, positive or negative, with the mother.  Good feedback is constructive.  Bad feedback, which is covered in the “Barriers to Listening” section, is destructive.

To be effective, feedback must focus on a specific behavior.  Mothers who in the past have had no real guidance from their peers or parents welcome someone who cares enough to be honest and “up front” with them.

Best practice is to use constructive feedback statements.  These focus on the speaker and always begin with “I.” Positive feelings expressed as “I” statements may be the reinforcement a mother needs to make the best possible choices for herself and her baby.  Even negative feelings expressed as “I” statements, when spoken in love, can help a mother to face an unpleasant or difficult truth about herself or her behavior.  Scripture tells us that there are times when challenging someone about wrongdoing can be an act of love.  The important thing to remember is that the angel making the statement claims responsibility for her feelings rather than placing the blame on the other person!

An “I” statement has three parts:
1. I feel
2.when you
3. because 
Here is how it works:

 “I feel hurt when you speak sarcastically to me because it feels like a put-down.”

 “I feel good when you take the time to call me because it shows that you are interested in this relationship, too.”

 “I feel worried when you don’t keep your appointments at the pre-natal clinic because your health and the baby’s health are at risk.”

 “I feel annoyed when you ask me every day to run your errands because you’re capable of handling some of your responsibility.”

 “I feel disappointed when you don’t follow through on your promises because I want to trust you.”

When we challenge a mother out of love, we ask them to examine their actions so they can clearly see the consequences and hopefully change negative or destructive behavior. This is not a case of “holier-than-thou” pride, it is an act of charity.

The motive for providing feedback must be love.  If other motivation such as anger, frustration, scorn, or the need to be superior exists, the person will feel punished or rejected, and the confrontation will not be effective.

The goal for providing feedback must be to benefit. Verbal challenging ultimately must benefit, not condemn.  As the mothers accept the truth of their situation and turn from their destructive behaviors, they can begin to live a more positive lifestyle.

The context for providing feedback  must be trust. Verbal challenging succeeds only if the Gabriel angel shows the mother love and trust.  In this atmosphere, she will know she was challenged out of concern, even if she disagrees.

Providing feedback for negative behavior:  Is the mother aware of the risks of her behavior?  This type of feedback focuses on the physical, emotional, and spiritual consequences of negative behavior.

Providing feedback for negative perceptions:  Does the mother face life realistically? This type of feedback focuses on her perceptions of herself and her situation as it really is, not as she wants it to be.

Providing feedback for negative attitudes:  This type of feedback focuses on the mother’s attitudes about herself and others, and tries to replace a possible “victim” status with one that stresses strength and personal growth. 

Here the angel demonstrates not only that she has understood the mother but also that her point of view is important and that her feelings are understandable.  Validation is different than agreement which occurs when the angel agrees with the mother’s position.  First and foremost, angels represent the teachings of the Catholic Church.  Angels never compromise those teachings, but they can validate that the mother is really feeling bad, etc.  Never be dishonest just to pacify a mother.

“I appreciate your honesty.  I can tell it’s been very painful to share these things.  I know you’re trying to make a good decision.”

“I know it’s been hard finding people you can trust in your life.  I appreciate you trusting me enough to share your deep hurt and reaching out for help for yourself and your baby.  That takes courage.”

Study the following chart to learn those behaviors which validate the mother. A Spectrum of Validation and Invalidation

16 Loving unconditionally
15 Loving
14 Being loyal
13 Agreeing
12 Validating Validation = healing
11 Being real
10 Accepting
9 Identifying
8 Mirroring
7 Being supportive
6 Understanding
5 Hearing
4 Being attentive Safe
3 Making eye contact
2 Being interested
1 Listening

------- Being Neutral -------

-1 Not listening
-2 Uninterested
-3 No eye contact
-4 Not being attentive

-5 Not hearing Unsafe
-6 Not understanding
-7 Not being supportive
-8 Not identifying
-9 Not accepting
-10 Unhealthy Teasing
-11 Not being real
-12 Invalidating Invalidation = wounding
-13 Neglecting
-14 Abandoning
-15 Disagreeing
-16 Rejecting
-17 Betraying
-18 Attacking

Gabriel angels are not doormats to be walked upon.  Never allow a mother to be insulting or disrespectful.  Doing so will only condone her behavior and reinforce her irresponsibility.  Be honest with the mother if she deliberately hurts you. You treat her with respect because she is a child of God.  You expect the same treatment from her because so are you. Body Language

We know how important words are, but we also know that they can be shields for what is really going on inside the person.  Body posture, gestures, voice tone, and inflection give us the real clues to help us answer the question, “How is this person really feeling?” Unless we understand body language, we can’t accurately reflect feelings.

Remember!  Most people really hear only about 25% of what someone says to them. Be tuned to the other components of interpersonal communication to better understand the needs and true feelings of the mother.

Emotions and feelings are more accurately communicated nonverbally than with words. Whereas words are best for communicating thoughts, nonverbal communication is best for conveying emotions and feelings.  This is because a mother can more easily control what she says.  Nonverbal behaviors are not easily controlled consciously.

Be mindful of the mother’s personal space.  This refers to an invisible bubble of space.  The distance varies from person to person but if you cross this invisible line, you may make the mother uncomfortable.  Nevertheless, touching the mother by a pat on the back or holding her hand when she is crying may be the very best thing to establish a helping relationship.  Use prudence in all cases.

Barriers to Listening

DISTRACTIONS- There are two types of distractions-internal and external.  Both interfere with concentration and make it difficult to listen.  External distractions are easier to control.  These include noises, etc.  Internal distractions can occur when the angel is caught up in personal problems that the mother triggers, which diverts attention from actively listening.   
EMOTIONAL REACTIONS- The angel’s emotional responses may interfere with active listening. Therefore, to improve your perception of the mother, you must strive to increase your empathy.  Empathy is your ability to experience the crisis from the mother’s point of view.

DEFENSIVENESS- The practice of mentally debating with the mother is a significant barrier to listening.  If the angel gets caught up in a rebuttal of the mother’s story, you will probably miss the rest of what she has to say.

FATIGUE- Active listening requires energy. Make sure you are well rested.

DAYDREAMING- We all daydream.  When you catch yourself daydreaming, immediately decide to redirect your focus to the mother’s story.  

LISTENING ONLY FOR FACTS- All factual stories have a myriad of emotions attached to them.

SNAP JUDGMENTS- Conclusions reached rapidly without much forethought. You must strive to remain open minded.  Most people would agree that it is important to understand the speaker’s ideas before judging them.  Despite this common sense, some people will form snap judgments, evaluating mothers before hearing them out.  This tendency is greatest when the mother’s ideas conflict with the angels.  Angels are encouraged to speak in a non blaming way and focus on the issue and not the person.

CLOSE ENDED QUESTIONS- These questions can be answered “Yes” or “No.”  Such questions are easy to answer and involve little risk. 

 “Are you upset with being pregnant?”
 “Do you wish this had never happened?”
“You really don’t think you should keep the baby, do you?”
 “You knew he didn’t really want to marry you, didn’t you?”

 “WHY QUESTIONS”-Why questions avoid the here and now and foster guilt and justification in the mother.  Often the angel would be viewed as judgmental since the feeling of judgment is elicited in the mother.  These questions imply judgment and can make the mother defensive.  A mother is likely to respond to a “why” question with a “because” answer which she thinks is obvious to everyone.
“Why keep calling him?
“Why did you decide to move in with your boyfriend?”

RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS- These are really several questions in one rambling sentence. They confuse and intimidate, and often can put the mother on the spot.

Do you realize what a mess you’re in, and where will you live,  and if you find a place, who will help you pay the rent, and do you think money grows on trees etc.,?

Destructive Feedback- This type of feedback focuses on the listener and takes the form of “you” statements.  Negative feelings expressed in “you” statements often take the form of criticism, blame, judgment, or sarcasm.  These types of statements will discourage communication and can hurt the mother.  Stay away from the following types of comments. These can really stall the communication process.  A skilled angel would not do these.

Examples of destructive feedback:
 “You disgust me with all that profanity you use!”
 “You disappoint me every time!”
 “You are impossible to talk to!”
 “You just don’t care about your baby’s health.”
 “You’re doing this just to hurt me!”

Arguing, preaching:
 “Do you realize . . .?”    
 “If you weren’t so stubborn, you’d see that . . .” 
“Yes, but have you forgotten. . . ?”

Judging, blaming, criticizing:
 “You are a bad person . . .”   
 “You’re not thinking straight . . .” 
“You’re leading a sinful life . . . ”

Interpreting, analyzing, diagnosing:
 “What you need is . . . ”   
“The problem with you is . . .” 
 “You’re just trying to get attention . . .”

Reassuring, placating, excusing:
 “It’s not that bad . . .”    
 “Don’t worry . . .”
“You don’t need to feel that way . . .”

Ordering, threatening, warning:
 “If you don’t, then . . .”    
 “I said you shouldn’t . . .”
“If you do that, you know what will happen . . . ”

Moralizing, urging, providing solutions: 
 “You ought to . . .”  
“What I would do is . . .” 
 “It would be best if you  . . .”

Diverting, digressing, shifting:
 “Let’s not discuss it . . .”    
 “That’s not important right now . . .” 
 “That’s not really the issue here . . .”


Exercise #1A-Non Listening Signals

Which of the following are your signals that you aren’t listening to the speaker?

1. I daydream

2. I slouch down in the chair, if I am seated

3. I glance at my watch, the ceiling, or the floor

4. I play with some object, such as glasses, paper clip, or pencil

5. I stare into space

6. I drum my fingers on my arm or on a solid surface

7. I cross my legs and bounce my foot

8. I turn slightly away from the speaker

9. I yawn, sigh, or show other signs of boredom

10. I don’t look directly at the speaker

11. Add any non listening acts you participate in while attempting to listen
Exercise #1B - Paying Attention?  

Take this test and see

1. When conversing I find my mind wandering:
a. Often
b. Occasionally
c. Rarely
2. In general I do:
a. Most of the talking
b. Most of the listening
c. As much talking as listening
3. Someone has just told me a dramatic or humorous story about himself or herself.  I:
a. Ask for more details
b. Say, “That’s nothing.  Let me tell you what happened to me.”
c. Make a reflective expression such as, “That must have been terrifying,” or “What a funny experience.”
4. In a typical conversation, I:
a. Ask more questions than I answer
b. Answer more questions than I ask
c. Ask as many questions as I answer
5. I interrupt people:
a. Frequently
b. Occasionally
c. Almost never
6. Someone is telling me a story or making a point about something.  Midway I realize what he is driving at, so I:
a. Let him finish before I talk
b. Finish the thought for him to show that I am tuned in to what he is saying
c. Let my mind wander until it’s my turn to talk, since I know what is going to be said
7. When talking to someone I use the word “you:”
a. More often than the word “I”
b. Less often than the word “I”
c. More or less the same as the word “I”
8. In a brief social conversation (under 10 minutes) I use the other person’s name:
a. Rarely
b. Once or twice
c. As many times as possible to make him or her feel appreciated and recognized
9. When other people are talking, I look them in the eye:
a. Most of the time
b. Some of the time
c. Infrequently, since I don’t want to make them feel uncomfortable
10. I consider a proper communicating distance with someone I don’t know well to be:
a. One arm’s length
b. Two arms’ length
c. Three arms’ length
11. When it’s my turn to talk, I change the subject matter:
a. Often
b. Occasionally
c. Almost never
12. When someone is explaining something technical or complicated I:
a. Say, “Let me see if I understand what you’re saying,” and rephrase the explanation in my own words
b. Interrupt the person along the way to be sure I am getting it all
c. Act as if I am following what he or she says, even if I am not, so I won’t look or sound stupid
13. Whenever possible, I:
a. Lean somewhat away from the other person so he or she won’t feel crowded
b. Lean toward the other person to indicate my interest
c. Neither lean toward nor away from the other person
14. Around new people I tend to be:
a. Reserved
b. Friendly
c. Ready to express my opinions as a way to get the conversation moving
15. As someone speaks, I usually
a. Remain quiet and neutral
b. Add my “two cents’ worth” as I go along to keep the conversation lively
c. Nod, smile and acknowledge what is being said as it is being said


13 to 15 right answers – you perceive yourself as an accomplished listener.
10 to 12 right answers – you perceive yourself to be a better listener than most people, but need to fine-tune your skills somewhat.
7 to 9 right answers – you perceive your listening skills to be seriously lacking and need a great deal of polishing.
0 to 6 right answers – you perceive your listening skills to be extremely poor and need immediate first aid.

Bear in mind that people are often unaware of their true listening behaviors and your answers may not reflect how you really behave.  You can check your answers by having someone with whom you interact regularly fill out the form reflecting on your behavior – not her own.

The explanations of the statements are:

1. Everyone’s mind wanders from time to time, but if you find it happening often, you probably are not paying attention or using effective listening techniques.

2. Doing most of the listening can be all right if you are in business situations and can even be a social plus if done in moderation.  If taken to the extreme, however, it can mean you aren’t giving others enough feedback or may be making them uncomfortable by giving the impression you are holding back – letting them reveal themselves without being willing to reveal much about yourself.

3. A good listener lets the other person know she heard what was said and is interested and concerned.

4. When you ask as many questions as you answer, it is an indication that you are an active listener, that you know how to listen effectively, that you probe to clarify unclear information, and that you ask for expansions of ideas.

5. In you frequently interrupt people, you deny yourself the opportunity to receive an entire message.  You also may be perceived as an impatient and rude listener, thus encouraging the other person to cut short his or her message.  This can result in a hurried and incomplete statement.

6. You may be wrong about what you think the other person was about to say.  Listening the person out ensures getting the entire message.

7. If you use the word “I” too much it may mean that you are only listening long enough to get a topic you want to speak about and, thus, are only interested in presenting your point of view and not in gaining the information obtained through concentrated and complete listening.

8. It’s important to use the other person’s name once or twice in a brief conversation in order to etch it into your memory.

9. Looking the other person in the eye concentrates your attention on that person and allows you to obtain the nonverbal clues often necessary to gain the subtleties of a speaker’s intent.  When you employ intense eye contact to facilitate listening, remember to keep in mind the differences between cultures.  Specifically, be aware that in many cultures people feel uncomfortable when there is sustained eye contact. 

10. If you get physically too close to people, they may feel intimidated and feel uncomfortable communicating.  Thus, they might cut short their message, causing you to lose some or all of the meaning.  On the other hand, standing too far away may make people feel you are not interested and, again, cause them to alter their message process.  In the United States, an arm’s length away seems to be comfortable for most senders and receivers.  Remember, however, that this is a North American pattern, and not necessarily the same in other cultures.

11. Changing the subject matter drastically may indicate a lack of interest on your part and may be a clue that you’re not listening intently to the speaker.

12. Constant interruptions before the other person has a chance to complete a thought can be distracting to you as a listener and confuse the speaker.  A confused speaker is likely to cut her  message short before completing it.  

13. In North American culture it’s appropriate to lean toward the speaker.  It shows interest and also allows you to have direct visual contact in order to obtain the full verbal and nonverbal intent of the message.

14. Being highly opinionated stifles communication and may cause listening problems.

15. Remaining quiet and neutral often doesn’t give the speaker feedback, so he or she may not know if you don’t understand.  Effective feedback alerts the speaker to the necessity to make adjustments – clarification of terms, adding examples, restructuring the message – in order to aid you in understanding. Exercise #1C- Listening and Not Listening

This exercise will give you a sense of the differences between sincere, careful listening and the poor imitations that often pass for it.

1. Join with between two and four partners and choose a subject of importance to all of you.  Spend five minutes discussing this topic, but instead of trying to understand one another’s positions, each member should try to dominate the conversation and convince the others to accept his or her position.

2. After completing the preceding step, members should describe how they felt during the discussion when others did not attend to their ideas.  Discuss how frequent this sort of poor listening is in your everyday lives.

3. Now try the discussion for a second five-minute period, but this time add a simple rule: Only one person at a time may speak.  You can enforce this rule by using a small object (such as a set of keys or a pen) as the prop that allows a person to talk.  The person holding the object has the floor.  When he or she is finished, the object is passed to another person.

4. After completing Step 3, discuss how this conversation differed from the first one your group held.  Consider how following the simple rule of “one speaker at a time” might change the quality of your conversations with a mother.
Exercise #1D- Informational Listening Practice and Paraphrasing

Effective informational listening isn’t easy.  It takes hard work and concentration.  You can improve your skill in this important area and convince yourself of the difference good informational listening makes by following these steps.

1. Find a partner to practice with.  One will act as the angel and the other as the mother.

2. Invite your partner to explain her side of an issue that the two of you have difficulty discussing.  Your job during this conversation is to understand your partner.  You should not even attempt to explain your position.  If you find the prospect of trying to understand the other person distressing, consider how this attitude might interfere with your ability to listen carefully. 

3. As your partner explains her point of view, use your listening skills to help you understand.  You can discover how well you are grasping your partner’s position by occasionally paraphrasing what you think she is saying.  If your partner verifies your paraphrase as correct, go on with the conversation.  If not, try to listen again and play back the message until the partner confirms your understanding.

4. After the conversation is over, ask yourself the following questions:

-As a listener, how accurate was your first understanding of the speaker’s statements?

-How did your understanding of the speaker’s position change after you used paraphrasing?

-Did you find that the gap between your position and that of your partner narrowed as a result of your both using paraphrasing?

-How did you feel at the end of your conversation?  How does this feeling compare to your usual emotional state after discussing controversial issues with others?

-How might your life change if you used paraphrasing at home?  At work?  With friends?

Exercise #2-Identifying Feelings Worksheet

In each example, what emotion might the mother be feeling?

 “I don’t know what’s wrong. He promised he’d call me this weekend, but I haven’t heard from him yet.”  Answers:  disappointment, anger, hurt, rejection, loneliness.

 “All my baby does is cry!  It seems I can’t do anything right.  I can’t even take a bath anymore without her crying!”  Answers:  frustration, entrapment, exhaustion.

 “I know my life will change a lot once I become a mother.  My parents and older sister are supporting my decision to keep the baby.  I know the baby and I will be just fine.”  Answers:  acceptance, confidence, support.

Work with a partner and identify the mother’s feelings and a possible Angel’s response.

Mother:   “I still can’t believe it!  What do I know about babies? How am I ever going to make it? I should keep my baby, but I don’t have anyone to turn to. Can I still finish college?   Is this really happening to me?”

Identify her feelings and why she may be feeling this way.  ______________________________________________________________________________

Mother:    “When I first knew I was pregnant, I was worried about what my dad would think of me.  But he got angry and threw me out.  Now I hate him. I don’t care what he thinks.”

Identify the feelings and why she may be feeling this way.

Mother:    “When I went to the doctor she said I was two months along.  I didn’t even know I was pregnant and I had smoked some pot.  Now my mom says my baby’s probably deformed and I should have an abortion.”

Identify the feelings and why she may be feeling this way. ______________________________________________________________________________

Mother:    “I had plans to start a new job.  My son is two years old.  There’s no way I can raise another child alone.”

Identify the feelings and why she may be feeling this way.
______________________________________________________________________________ Exercise #3 - Recognizing Effective Paraphrasing

Select the effective paraphrase of the sender’s message.

1. Speaker: “Sometimes I think I’d like to drop out of school, but then I start to feel like a quitter.”
A. “Maybe it would be helpful to take a break and then you can always come back.”
B. “You’re so close to finishing.  Can’t you just keep with it a little bit longer?”
C. “It sounds like you have doubts about finishing school but that you don’t like to think of yourself as a person who would quit something you started.”
D. “What do you think the consequences will be if you drop out?”

2. Speaker: “I really don’t want to go to a party where I don’t know anyone.  I’ll just sit by myself all night.”
A. “You’re apprehensive about going someplace where you don’t know anyone because you’ll be alone.”
B. “It would really be good for you to put yourself in that kind of a situation.”
C. “I can really relate to what you’re saying.  I feel awkward too when I go to strange places.”
D. “Maybe you could just go for half an hour and then you can always leave if you’re not having a good time.”

3. Speaker: “I get really nervous when I talk with people I respect and who I fear might not respect me.”
A. “I’ve really found it useful to prepare my remarks in advance.  Then I’m not nearly as nervous.”
B. “You really shouldn’t feel nervous with people you respect because in many ways you are just as good as they are.”
C. “You feel uncomfortable when you talk with people who you think may not regard you in a positive way.”
D. “Why do you think you get so nervous about people you respect?”

Exercise #4 - Providing Feedback

As a listener, a person can provide feedback to show listening attention or interest in the subject, to stop speakers from using unfamiliar vocabulary, to discourage them from digressing and speaking in circles, to alert them to the need for examples, to make them focus on the issue, to signal the need for specifics, to show empathy, and to suggest that thoughts need to be organized more comprehensively.  

Listening for Feedback Cues

For each situation list several ways in which you could let others know you are listening to them, or others could let you know they are listening to you.  As an example, answers are provided for the first situation. 

Situation 1: You have just told your friend that you are going to Europe for the summer.  She...

1. Nonverbal cues:    Raises her eyebrows
2. Verbal cues:   says “Wow!”
3. Nonverbal and verbal cues combined:   nods and says “That’s great”

Situation 2: Your friend tells you she intends to get an abortion. You...

1. Nonverbal cues:   
2. Verbal cues:  
3. Nonverbal and verbal cues combined:  

Situation 3: The mother tells you she has been raped, got pregnant and doesn’t want to tell her parents. You..

1. Nonverbal cues:   
2. Verbal cues:  
3. Nonverbal and verbal cues combined:  

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