Headline: Good cop better than bad cop for confessions (National Post, Feb. 3, 2011)
In a study published in the Justice Quarterly, researchers Nadine Deslauriers-Varin and Michel St-Yves concluded that lawbreakers were more co-operative with someone they trusted than someone they feared. Deslauriers-Varin was quoted as saying, “I think it’s all about listening . . . and just making them feel comfortable, not seeing you as the enemy, and just seeing you as trying to help them in the situation they’re in.”
I add; it is about kindness and seeking to understand. My own experience is with our daughter Kelly, who spent a great deal of time in jail over an eleven year period. Listening works when it draws a circle that takes the other in. Listening has the power to create a sense of emotional safety, understanding, and connection. One of the best ways to demonstrate that care is to seek to understand with out judgment.
Just this month I received a letter from a twenty-something young woman who has just spent seven years in jail. She had just finished reading Kelly’s and my book, Love Her As She Is: Lessons from a Daughter Stolen by Addictions.
Letter from Incarcerated Young Woman
She wrote, “I have not had the chance to really get to know myself as well as I wanted. Something attracted me to read your book. As I read it, I realized I related to it, in so many ways. My mom and dad tried to raise me good but instead I chose the gang life. . . I would love to get out and do public speaking to youth. I have already done public speaking to five hundred high school students. When I finished reading your book, I wanted to just give you thanks for understanding an addict’s point of view. May you be blessed in more ways than one.”
I have several hopes for my new and young friend. I hope my response reaches her before her release this month. I hope she finds one or more wise people who can really listen, who can ask open ended questions, and support her in getting to know herself.
Perhaps her gift will be to speak to auditoriums filled with youth. Often times our survival of the worst of times and our worst mistakes become our offering to others. But that will more likely happen if she finds that person or people who will provide the mirror for her to do the transformative work required.
My last hope is that she one day demonstrate her resilience which is revealed in her message to me. She wants to survive and even thrive from the adversity she has faced. Indeed, perhaps one day she will provide to another that kind listening that not only benefits prisoners, but all of us.
Please know the power of listening to change, maybe even save a life. Consider readying yourself for the next conversation with someone who has dulled their eyes. Look for the moment you see a glimmer, a face that begins to peek at you, begins to open. That moment is when connection happens. Be present. Mirror back calm to their sea of chaos. Mirror back kindness to their sense of worthlessness. Mirror back hope to their feeling of despair. This is the art of powerful listening!
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Patricia Morgan MA CCC helps her readers, clients, and audiences lighten their load, brighten their outlook, and strengthen their resilience. To go from woe to WOW call 403.242.7796 or email a request.
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