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Active listening is a type of listening where the conversation is focused on
carefully hearing about a person’s feelings and experiences, and encouraging
the space for the speaker to come to their own decisions about what to do.
It’s a very important and helpful skill in any situation where you are providing
support to someone – and as youth organizers, that is often us!
This resource will provide you with some basic tips. We hope you practice these skills in your organizing and in your lives!

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Published by YouthLine, 2020-06-03 12:06:07

Active Listening for Organizers

Active listening is a type of listening where the conversation is focused on
carefully hearing about a person’s feelings and experiences, and encouraging
the space for the speaker to come to their own decisions about what to do.
It’s a very important and helpful skill in any situation where you are providing
support to someone – and as youth organizers, that is often us!
This resource will provide you with some basic tips. We hope you practice these skills in your organizing and in your lives!

Keywords: youth,queer,lgbtq,lgbtqyouth,queeryouth,organizing,community,recources,ontario,toronto,canada

Active Listening
for Organizers

This resource has been developed by staff and volunteers from LGBT
YouthLine’s Peer Support HelpLine. LGBT YouthLine provides peer support

and youth leadership opportunities to 2SLGBTQ+ youth across Ontario.

What is Active Listening?

Active listening is a type of listening where the conversation is focused on
carefully hearing about a person’s feelings and experiences, and encouraging
the space for the speaker to come to their own decisions about what to do.
It’s a very important and helpful skill in any situation where you are providing
support to someone – and as youth organizers, that is often us!
This resource will provide you with some basic tips. We hope you practice these
skills in your organizing and in your lives!

About our HelpLine

LGBT YouthLine runs a toll-free Ontario-wide Peer Support HelpLine that
offers information, referrals, and emotional support to 2SLGBTQ+ youth (29
and under) in Ontario. All volunteers who answer the phones identify as
2SLGBTQ+ and are 29 years of age or younger. We’re not counsellors, we’re
peers who can relate, and we provide support through active listening.

1/

Introduction Reflecting Validation
Feelings
Repeating Back

Advice Giving Being Curious
vs

Active Listening

Let’s break it down...

Repeating Back

Repeating back allows us to say back in our own
words what someone has told us. It allows the person
to hear back what they have said, and to confirm that
we haven’t misunderstood their story.

Example:

As I hear it, you’re saying…
What I’m hearing you say is...

2/

Reflecting Feelings

When we reflect a feeling, we name what we think
someone might be feeling or experiencing. This is
often very validating. It serves as proof that we are
listening and that we have heard what they are trying
to communicate. If we are wrong, the person we are
supporting will probably correct us.

Example:

It sounds like you’re feeling confused
It seems as though you’re angry about this.

Validation

Validating the person we’re supporting and validating
what they’re saying or how they’re feeling, is an
important way to demonstrate that you believe what
they’re telling you and that you support them.

Validation can range from validating feelings about
a situation (“Yeah, that does sound really scary”) to
validating the person’s experiences and story (“I don’t
think it’s your fault”).

Example:

That sounds really (hard, scary, etc.)
You have the right to... (feel supported by ___,

have your identity respected, etc.)

You deserve / everyone deserve(s)…
I’m glad you came to talk to me.

3/

Being Curious

Being curious helps us to better understand how the
person we are supporting feels and helps us connect
with them. Asking tons of questions is great for
connecting!

Asking Questions

? When talking with a peer, it is important to focus on the
feelings they are experiencing rather than the problems
at hand. We can never solve someone else’s problems. We
can, however, provide a safe and non-judgmental space to
discuss feelings, fears, thoughts, successes and concerns.

“What” and “how” questions are preferable to “why”
questions. “Why” questions tend to make someone feel
defensive. “What” and “how” questions allow them to
speak about their experience without feeling like they
have to “defend” themselves or “prove” their situation/
experience to us.

Close ended Example:

questions force a person to give a What’s on your mind? … How
specific answer, such as “yes” or does that make you feel?
“no”. With close-ended questions, a
conversation is controlled by the person Why do you want to come
asking, not answering the questions. out? becomes: What is pressuring
you to come out?
OPEN
Being able to rely on ready-to-
questions encourage the person to go open-ended questions will
explore their thoughts and feelings by prepare you for most situations!
leaving them space to answer in many
ways. They also allow the person to
be self-directed, because they are the
one who choose what to speak about.

4/

Advice Giving vs Active Listening

While giving advice can be helpful, it can also be very
destructive. As an organizer, it is our role to empower
the people we support to make their own decisions.
The most helpful thing we can do is actively listen to
them and provide resources or information, if needed.
It is not our role to solve people’s problems. Remember
that the person you are supporting is the one who
needs to decide what action to take, if any, and that
they are the ones who have to carry out their decision.

Because giving advice is often a habit we are in, if you would like to be a more
supportive listener you may decide to practice giving less advice. If you feel the
urge to give advice welling up in a moment, try to pause and remember that the
person you are speaking with knows a lot more about their situation than you. Try
to center their knowledge. Here are some ways to try this:

Peer: What do you think I Peer: If you were in my
should do? situation, what would you do?

You: I’m not sure what will be You: What I might do in your
best, but we can try and figure situation might not be right for
it out together. Would you like to you. What are some things that
brainstorm some options? you’ve thought about doing?

Asking for permission to provide advice is also important because it allows the
person who you are supporting to honor their need in the moment. They may need
validation and not advice, and vice versa; asking for permission to give advice
gives the other person a choice in how they would like to be supported in the
moment. It can be particularly difficult to not give advice when someone asks for
it. Sometimes someone truly wants to know what we think or what we would do if
we were in their shoes. Some ways to cope with this:

Example:

Would it help to talk more about some of your options?
Can I help you figure out what to do next?
Are you open to some advice?

5/

Self-Awareness and
Checking In with Yourself

Knowing yourself and your needs are
powerful tools as an organizer.

So, why is it important to check in with
yourself?

Self-awareness of your boundaries,
needs, desires, feelings and emotions
can help you to decide if in the moment
you can support someone, or if in the
moment, you need to support yourself.

It’s always okay to acknowledge your
limitations and to get some help from
someone else so that you can create a
supportive space for yourself and the
peers you are supporting.

Understanding
Your Boundaries

Understanding your boundaries will help
you to understand your capacity as an
organizer and what support you may
need to run/ organize or support your
group or event. Your boundaries will help
you to understand where you are at.
This is an ongoing process, and will take
time, and it’s okay if you’re boundaries
shift and change moment to moment.
Although you need to understand your
boundaries as an organizer, remember
that you will also have personal
boundaries; which are equally important
to acknowledge and meet.

6/

Guiding Questions

Take a few minutes to clarify your boundaries and understand where you are at
today. Here are a few guiding questions to help you get started with understanding
what your capacity may be and what kinds of support you may need to put in
place to support yourself and the other youth you will be working with.

As an organizer:

What kind of work are we doing as a group? (Are we hosting a support
group, a social or educational space, or another type of space?)
What type of support can we be expected to give as a group doing this
kind of work?
What other kinds of support are there in my community (are there formal
supports, other groups, helplines/online spaces available (like YL!))
What is my role in my group? Who can I go to for support in my group
when I’m not sure what to do?
What are ways as a group we can make space to debrief with each
other, and to support each other in our work?

Personally:

How am I feeling today? (Drained, tired, positive, open, triggered,
irritated?)
What are my personal needs around listening and holding space?
How do I know when I am not able to hold space or provide support?
Are there any topics of conversation that will be hard for me, that I would
like to avoid, or don’t have the skills to support others around?
Who will help me and support me when I need to debrief the
conversations I’m having with others?
How will I take care of myself, and get back to baseline after a hard
conversation?

7/

The YouthOrganize Resource Series was created in 2020 to support 2SLGBTQ+
youth organizing in their communities. The series includes the following
resources:

• Organizing 101: A Step by Step Tool
• Organizing 201: Going Deeper
• Accessibility and Organizing
• Active Listening for Organizers
• FNMI: What’s That?
• 2SLGBTQ+ Organizing in Ontario Schools

LGBT YouthLine is a Queer, Trans, Two-Spirit* youth-led organization that
affirms and supports the experiences of youth (29 and under) across Ontario.
We do this by:

• Providing anonymous peer support and referrals;
• Training youth to provide support to other youth; and
• Providing resources so youth can make informed decisions.

For more information about LGBT YouthLine, our programs, and to access
these resources, visit https://www.youthline.ca/

Funded by

*Language: 2SLGBTQ/Queer, Trans, Two-Spirit
We use 2SLGBTQ+ (Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, Queer) and
Queer, Trans, Two-Spirit interchangeably as umbrella terms to
identify the youth that we serve. We acknowledge that these
terms cannot/do not encompass the rich diversity of identities
that may fall under these umbrellas, including two-spirit, lesbian
gay, bisexual trans, genderqueer, intersex, queer, questioning,
asexual, aromantic, non-binary or any other non-normative
identities related to sexuality and gender.

8 / Graphic design by Laura Hui


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