Listening across cultures; the similarities

In May this year I had the opportunity to share my work of deep listening with the Tibetan Community in Kathmandu, Nepal. I was able to sow the seeds of listening with over 200 students, 30 teachers and a small leadership team.

The students enjoyed the sessions stating they loved to hear English being spoken and meeting someone from the UK in person. For many it was the first time, rather they listen to the language from YouTube or the movies. The students enjoyed the activities in not only discussing the impact of listening, but then experiencing it for themselves. They quickly picked up the core skills of EARS (soft eye contact, ask open questions, resist the urge to interrupt and comfort with silence) and applied them to experience being listened to in a way, unlike they had before. They described the experience of being listened to as making them feel happy, valued, respected, motivated, desire to continue sharing. They recognised the impact this level of listening would have on their friendships and communication skills.

During several sessions with both the students and teachers they asked some thoughtful questions which we explored together and came up with some fresh ideas and ways of being to address them. What about you, what do you think are the ways in which you might answer the questions below:

Questions asked:

● What is more important listening or communication skills?
● What is more important equity or equality?
● How do we stop others interrupting us?
● How do we stop someone who keeps talking non-stop?
● How do we encourage others to listen to us?

During my visit I witnessed that whilst British and Himalayan cultures represent significant diversity within their respective regions, there are still some general trends in listening behaviours which include:

1. Respect for tradition and authority figures : Both British and Himalayan cultures often have a respect for tradition and authority figures. In listening contexts, this might manifest as attentiveness and deference towards older or more experienced speakers. Consequently we looked at the idea of generating equality in our capacity to listen and think well, irrespective of hierarchy.

2. Value of politeness : Politeness is generally valued in both British and Himalayan cultures. This can influence listening behaviours, such as maintaining eye contact, nodding, and providing verbal cues to show engagement and respect for the speaker.

3. Importance of context : Both cultures recognise the importance of context in communication. Listeners in both British and Himalayan cultures may rely on contextual cues to interpret meaning and understand the speaker’s perspective.

The Principal and Headmaster kindly shared their feedback of our sessions together:

“Hearty Welcome Mam Jane all the way from UK to Namgyal High. A beautiful lady exuding all the amazing virtues- warm grace, elegance, soft spoken, humble, passionate active Listening skills coach and facilitator – Enjoyed listening and attending to her session. We are all delighted to have her in the school. She also took two sessions for our Class XII students today.

Cultivating listening skills can enhance our personal relations with other people around us, become effective leader and improve ones career and standing in community.” -Principal, Mr Norbu Tsering

“Thank you so much for the valuable service rendered for our students and staff members. Sure, the seeds you have sown in our mind and hearts will bring fruitful results. My students love to see their pictures and remember you.” -Headmaster, Mr. Tsering Palden

Thank you for listening.
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