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Listener’s Training Session: Generating a Safe Space

I recently spoke with Christine Menendez, Amal Centre’s Coordinator, about the upcoming training sessions for Listeners being organized by Amal Centre in collaboration with Concordia University Student Parent Centre. The main themes that came out from our discussion was the necessity of effective listeners in communities who are resourceful, empowering communities to lead effective listening workshops – but, implicitly, it seemed all the themes boiled down to the generation of safe spaces.

Of course, we all have been through a time that we want to broach a topic with our families, friends, or any other social group, but an instance of fear and anxiety grips our throat, and we decide to dwell in our own thoughts rather than voicing them.

Topics like gender equality, financial independence for women, marital rape, overwhelming feelings of dread instead of happiness when you find out you’re pregnant, postpartum depression – the list goes on – are not addressed because there isn’t a space to address them. Without a space to address them, women often seem to be unaware of resources available to them such as, Amal Center for Women, Info-Social, Crisis Centers of Québec, Suicide Action Montréal, Nisa Helpline etc.

I was afraid of asking for help at the local health center, afraid of being judged based on my faith and cultural background. I did not want to be pushed or pressured into separation and divorce as the one and only option.”

Amal Client Testimonial (Toolkit, pg. 5)

And this is why Amal’s up and coming training sessions for listeners is beyond equipping community members with effective listening tips and techniques – it implicitly aims to transform the communities that we are born into, grow up in and are a part of our identities, into safe spaces where we can voice the struggles we go through and feel we are being understood rather than judged.

How does listening generate safe spaces?

Being able to speak to someone without them speaking at you, rather to you and being considerate of the situation you find yourself in alleviates any anxiety, fear, shame, or any other negative emotion you may be experiencing. The presence of effective listeners using culturally competent approaches creates a network of support, and thereby a safe space for speakers to be vulnerable and open up.

Additionally, the training sessions being developed by Amal also aim to empower listeners to take steps towards helping speakers to the most of their abilities. For example, their toolkit has a resources page, but the training being developed will provide different approaches on how to interact with speakers based on what they’re experiencing, who they are and other factors that may be linked to a proper resolution of any issues they are dealing with. The inclusion of active steps and effective listening techniques creates individuals equipped to generate safe spaces that appropriately match the speakers, are considerate of their culture, experiences, and temperaments.

If you would like to get some exposure of culturally competent approaches before the training begins, check out Amal Center’s toolkit page 9 that clearly outlines what to and not to do when taking on the role of a listener.

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About the author:

Born and raised in Montréal with a Pakistani background, Maryam grew up drinking chai while watching Radio-Canada. Aside from giving references from The Office, you can catch her re-reading some of her all-time favourite books like The Kite runner by Khaled Hosseini. Currently, she’s a graduate student in Public Health at McGill University, who is passionate about creating a discourse regarding colonialism, identity, and gender in health and developing solutions to promote health equity.