Effective Listening and Peer Support Services The Peer Support Specialist uses “Effective Listening” techniques when working with his or her peers (patients). According to the Kentucky Peer Support training, the difference between listening and “effective” listening is that we know what we are listening for; there are cues that guide the questions we will ask. We try to discern the person’s current self-image, what the person thinks would improve his or her life and what he or she thinks is standing in the way of those goals. Self-image, goals, and barriers are simple things to listen for actively.
It can be hard to really listen. We try to interrupt with advice, judgments, criticisms, or comparative stories of our own, or even feel the need to one-up the person. Effective listening means there may be moments of silence. That is okay. The Peer Support person’s role is to guide the peer into listening to his or her own inner truth with open, honest questions. These questions go by the old rules of journalism: who, what, where, when, how…but “why” is never involved. “Why” can make people defensive. Honest questions mean that one doesn’t already know the answer. The patient may feel his or her intelligence insulted by such questions.
The next time you have a conversation with a friend, try using these techniques. It can be difficult! Try to do as a Peer Specialist and don’t fix, save, advise, judge, or set the person straight. Just listen and ask honest, non-judgmental questions. It is interesting how much people really appreciate it.
Rebecca Coursey, KPS
Peer Support Specialist
“Recovery is a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.”