Title

Compassionate listening as an educational approach for intercultural understanding : a field test of the application of compassionate listening with US high school and university students in South and Southeast Asia

Publication Date

1-1-2005

Degree Name

MA in Intercultural Service, Leadership, and Management

First Advisor

John Ungerleider

Abstract

Can intercultural education and understanding be combined with and enhanced by intentional listening and listening as service to others? Compassionate listening is the intentional listening technique introduced to the 16 to 24 year old American student subjects of this study. Compassionate listening, as defined and developed by Gene Knudsen Hoffman, is listening focused on supporting the speaker irrespective of the listener's perspective. Leah Green, of the Compassionate Listening Project introduced this concept to the researcher/author of this paper. This study was inspired by Green's work using compassionate listening with American adults in Israel and Palestine to expose them to the many perspectives of that conflict while supporting the various speakers. The far reaching goal and lens for this study was preventing future intercultural conflict through a tolerant approach to intercultural education. The context of this study was a seven-week educational trip with 23 students and six adult leaders to Thailand, Sri Lanka, Burma/Myanmar, and South India from late January into early March 2005. The tsunami of 26 December 2004 had a profound effect on the planning, logistics, and experiences of all involved in this trip. This tragedy led to a division of the group into those who visited and served in tsunami affected areas and those who did not. Ninety-four percent of the responding students believed compassionate listening to be a useful and appropriate tool for intercultural understanding. The intensity of the experience for those students who visited tsunami affected areas corresponded with greater acceptance of the concept of compassionate listening. Though originally developed to aid conflict situations in need of a pre-dialogue tool, this study demonstrates that compassionate listening may be applied to many settings.

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