Building circles of support for people

so that they have a good life even after their parents are no longer here to stand up for them

Building circles of support for people

so that their families have peace of mind about the future

Building circles of support for people

so that they are empowered to realise their aspirations and contribute to their community

Building circles of support for people

so that they form intentional friendships that broaden and enrich their lives

Building circles of support for people

so that they develop stronger links in the wider community

Building circles of support for people

so that they are as fulfilled and happy as they can be

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Generous Listening

Because listening is at the heart of our work, it's a frequent topic in our ongoing training for Community Connectors. So we were delighted to learn about generous listening as explained by Dr Rachel Remen, Clinical Professor of Family and Community Medicine at the University of California (San Francisco)'s School of Medicine. A pioneer of relationship-centred care and integrative medicine, Dr Remen is the Founder and Director of the Institute for the Study of Health and Illness at Commonweal.

Having lived with Crohn's disease for 60 years, Dr Remen brings a patient's perspective to her work. "The Healer's Art", her ground-breaking curriculum for medical students, is now taught every year in more than half of the USA's medical schools and also in medical schools in seven other countries. Her best-selling books Kitchen Table Wisdom and My Grandfather's Blessings have sold over a million copies and been translated into 23 languages.

Dr Remen is convinced that we all have the power to grow beyond our current challenges and heal ourselves. She teaches doctors the importance of "really listening, not to analyse or to figure out what's needed next or what's wrong with this answer, but simply to know what's true for that other person."

This means cultivating the art of generous listening: "not to do the sort of things you usually do when you're listening, whether you're aware of them or not: do I like what I'm hearing? Do I agree with what I'm hearing? Do I like who's talking? Is this person more educated than I am, better trained than I am, less trained than I am, smarter than I am? We get very busy. We also listen – we're trained to listen – to learn what's wrong with the other person – do I know how to fix it? If I don't know how to fix it, do I know someone I can bring in who can fix it?"

This mental chatter can be so active that "We can't hear anybody. But in generous listening […] you don't even listen in order to understand why the other person feels the way they do. It doesn't matter why. What matters is what's true for this person – and you simply receive it and respect it. And in that safe interaction, something can happen which is larger than before."

In Dr Remen's view such interactions are "very strengthening communications […]. Just being heard, and being honoured – these things strengthen us."

Why is ACSYL so excited about this quality of listening? Because we see our clients as the experts on their own lives, and our role as empowering them to stretch their wings and fly.

If you'd like to hear Dr Remen talk, here are three links to get you started:

3 minutes on generous listening

31 minute interview by Charlie Rose

54 minute lecture to the American Medical Women's Association