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Poor Communication In Prison Inspired This Blog

Poor communication in prison inspired this blog - Picture of prison building and barbed wire gate.

I’m astounded by how a few basic Active Listening techniques can make all the difference in daily life. 10 years ago poor communication relentlessly hindered me. Now I enjoy greater effectiveness in my work and deeper connections in my professional and personal relationships. The purpose of this GLS blog to help others experience this same transformation. Here’s the backstory of how this blog on good listening skills came about. It all began in prison...

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Locked In Prison

Joining a small band of first-time volunteers in mid-2009, we began meeting with twelve high-medium security inmates each Saturday afternoon. Our goal was to teach them life skills using a fourteen-week training course.

These guys would cram – and be locked – into a small programmes room with us to watch a 45-minute DVD presentation on specific skills. This DVD was then followed by another 45 minutes of discussion in which we would thrash out the relevance of those skills to their lives.

Life inside and outside the prison is tough for inmates. Gangs, families and individuals pressure them back into the criminal lifestyles they're utterly desperate to leave. It’s a vicious cycle. So these particular guys were keen to understand the practicalities of using the various skills and principles in their daily lives.

Something Was Missing Though

As the weeks rolled by we had some brilliant conversations. But I began to notice a pattern.

Our group discussions played out like a game of ‘team’ ping-pong. Every discussion would volley back and forth from volunteers to prisoners and back again. Most of the time it would stay in our volunteer court. An inmate would ask a question and then one of our team would answer with an impromptu, rambling discourse for five to ten minutes on all they knew about the topic.

At times our little band would visibly see a change of countenance as the light turned on inside some of these guys. At other times our answers would be met with looks of confusion indicating we’d missed the point of their questions.

Overall, the course finished as a success. We saw lasting change in many of the guys. But I felt a deep haunting sense of frustration that our approach lacked something that could have helped us see greater change. We couldn’t seem to break out of this rut of poor communication.

Active Listening Could Have Helped

It wasn’t until I attended a corporate training workshop some months later that I truly began to identify the missing element needed for more effective communication. That workshop introduced me to the concept of Active Listening.

I began seeing that the inmates needed to talk, asking questions to explore at their own pace the life skills they were learning. They didn’t need our prolonged information downloads. All they needed us to do was actively listen. 

Active Listening techniques could have helped draw out of these guys the rich insights waiting to be uncovered. The impact of that life skills course could have been more profound with the use of these techniques.

Instead, we volleyed back and forth, attaining a measure of change, but missing out on that deeper impact.

I Now Use Active Listening All The Time

My journey since that pivotal corporate training workshop in 2009 has opened my eyes. Active Listening is powerful for enriching all our conversations in life, not just in group discussions. Here are just a few examples of when I've been able to use Active Listening to experience more effective communication:

  • Running that course five more times
  • Facilitating a fortnightly life skills group at the prison
  • Facilitating productive business meetings
  • At regular leadership team meetings for two voluntary organisations
  • Navigating our National Health System as a patient
  • Mentoring others
  • Listening actively to my nearest and dearest
  • And now this blog.

The more I experience the amazing impact of these listening techniques on my life, the more motivated – and excited – I get about putting them in the hands of others. I want others to experience the benefits too. And there is much opportunity to do so.

A 'Toolbox' to Resolve Poor Communication

Many people just don’t know how to listen. They experience frustrating conversations hindered by poor communication. But not knowing any way of changing, they resign themselves to it. The truth is, poor communication is often easily resolved. 

Hearteningly, I see great interest when talking with people about the subject of Active Listening. People genuinely do want to have good listening skills.

This blog is my attempt to fulfill this desire in an easy-to-use manner. 

My goal has been to create an online listening ‘toolbox’ stuffed full of practical information, tips and exercises on Active Listening. This information isn't just theory though. I illustrate the techniques with my own experiences of developing good listening skills.

Certainly, there are plenty of comprehensive books on communication skills. So my intention is that this blog will focus solely on good listening skills. Having this singular focus ensures that the blog complements the many other terrific communication resources in the market.

My Passionate Hope

My passionate hope is that  this website would give you all the tools needed for immediately improving your listening skills, conversations, and hence relationships. Regardless of whether you’re a seasoned conversationalist or just starting the Active Listening adventure my goal is that The GLS Project will contain something useful for you.

If you utilise this GLS Project to this end, then it has fulfilled its purpose.

All the best for your Active Listening journey! It’s an amazing ride. I’m excited for you.

May you know your loved ones more deeply, resolve conflicts more constructively, engage in business more productively, and simply experience social conversations that are more fascinating, enriching and even less scary.

To discover what you can get from this blog and to read my bio, visit my Welcome page.

Let’s Make Listening Fashionable!


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    Feature image credit: Photo by Larry Farr on Unsplash  
Make Listening Fashionable!

About the Author

Hello, I’m Andrew Ward and I’m the Kiwi guy writing most of the stuff on this website. You can read more about my story here.

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