The Act of Truly Listening

By: Morgan Licata, Fall 2017 HeLP Clinic Student Intern

Ernest Hemingway once said, “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” Listening is one of the most important jobs that lawyers have when they meet with their clients. However, oftentimes this vital communication skill is simply forgotten. The act of truly listening is fascinating because it is an action that is so easy yet so hard at the same time. In our fast-paced, high-tech, ever-changing world, communication is more important than ever. Yet, it seems as though society is placing less emphasis on the importance of truly listening to each another.

In a featured Ted Talk, Julian Treasure discussed how society is “losing our listening” and shared five ways to listen better and “re-tune our ears for conscious listening.”  Through experiences in the HeLP Clinic and interacting with clients, I have realized how relevant and important this message is for attorneys (and for aspiring attorneys, like myself). The following five exercises discussed in Julian Treasure’s Ted Talk will help individuals become better listeners, which will also help establish a better attorney-client relationship for those in the legal profession.

  1. Silence is Key: Try and take three minutes each day to have complete silence. This allows your ears to recalibrate and is an excellent way to push an internal reset button on your listening ears.
  2. “The Mixer”: When you are in a noisy environment, listen to how many channels of sound you are able to identify. This exercise helps individuals improve the quality of their listening.
  3. “Savoring”: This exercise is fully focused on enjoying mundane, everyday sounds. For example, listen to the sound of your tumble dryer and the beat it makes as it dries your clothes.
  4. Listening Positions: Actively move your listening position appropriately based on what or whom you are listening to. Make sure that you position yourself in a way to best listen to the speaker.
  5. RASA: An acronym which stands for: “Receive,” or paying attention to the person speaking; “Appreciate,” which refers to appreciating little noises that the speaker makes such as “hmm,” “oh” or “ok”; “Summarize,” where the listener summarizes the speaker’s words; and “Ask,” which refers to the listener asking questions to the speaker and being an active listener.

Each of these methods are vital in creating and sustaining solid attorney-client relationships. In the HeLP Clinic, we are given the opportunity to meet with our clients for an initial interview and then work on their case throughout the semester. However, it is at the initial interview that the client is able to explain their case and what their needs are. From the very onset of the attorney-client relationship, it is important to establish trust and ensure that every client feels like their needs are being heard. Despite the advances in technology and the growth of constant distractions, it is important that people do not forget the significance of good communication skills, especially when it comes to truly listening to one another.