The Listening Post offers Alaskans open ears, hearts
If you've ever felt like the people around you aren't really listening, just know that it's actually quite common. In fact, a study cited in the journal Scientific American suggests most of us stink at listening. But a group of about 30 volunteers in Alaska train to do just that — no more, no less. Collectively, they're known as The Listening Post.
"We just listen from the heart," explained Debbie Sis, who has been with the group since its start in 2008.
Volunteers are trained to listen without judging, advising, counseling, suggesting or cheerleading.
"So many of us, we want to impress people or to do good. We want to get that 'A' so if we cheerlead, then if something happens and that good event or that experience falls by the wayside, will they still want to share with us? Or will they be embarrassed about it?" explained Sis, although she admits it's easier said than done — particularly when hearing about someone else's hardship.
"When we have our monthly meetings we say it's a practice, we're not perfect," Sis said. "But what happens is that if we're trying to fix someone else, then we're not allowing or respecting their clarity to come to the surface. If we're trying to compose an answer for them, then we're not really listening."
Sis says to truly listen, Listening Post volunteers ask questions that are open-ended and express genuine curiosity in the other person's story. The sessions, which range in length based on the time each speaker needs, can be powerful both for those sharing and the person listening. Sis says she can't put into words what the group means to her.
"For me to really be able to hear their story and bear witness to it, no matter what's going on in their life, is truly a sacred honor," she said.
You'll find Listening Post sessions throughout the week at various locations in Anchorage and one session in Palmer. Visit their website for a schedule and to learn more about becoming a volunteer.
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