What if as part of “Let’s Talk,” we had a “We’ll Listen” campaign. File this under new ideas and let’s talk and mental health. The idea is this; start with a pilot project in a few high traffic malls, the airport, the universities, the library and offer to listen to passers by for 20 minutes at a time, with a 40-minute maximum. Listeners get a 20-minute rest every hour. Listeninng Pilot projects would be set up during the peak times of stress including Christmas in the malls, exam time at the university for example, listening stations in November running through until Valentine’s for the 1st market test.

The possibilities for listeners would include students who need the experience and wages better than most service industries, and volunteers including seniors looking for a “jobette,” to keep financially afloat, offering half decent wages up to $40/hour, and being able to bring their pets as an additional service to clients. The fees would start at $25.00for 20 minutes, $40.00 for 40. More money like coffee shops for quick turnover.

Extras could include hugs, comfort animals, coffee, milk & cookies, like high powered juice and water bars in gyms. NO mention of therapy or therapeutic value or services. Just listening. Hugging could be offered as an additional service, but not part of the Listeners job. Maybe greeters like going to see Santa. A hug when you come in, a hug when you’re ushered out, and a final hug after payment is made.

iPhoto opportunities could be important and in first years no extra charges for people being hugged or standing next to Listenning people wearing masks chosen resembling Freud, Jung, Klein, Lacan, Kristeva. This is a paradox, yes? No therapeutic value offered and yet photos with psychiatrists and psychologists. Maybe even a “Listenning Hall of Fame!” It’s the earnestness of most helping professions that drives me round the twist.

The recent Manitoba Health Report noted a need for 160 new psychologists working in Manitoba. This Listenning service could draw attention to the importance of mental health, but with tongue in cheek. The LISTENINNG attitude could be substantially different than active listening/clinical psychology or talk therapy, and would best start on a light-hearted note. This is not a crisis listening situation, almost the opposite. Anyone not threatening suicide or carrying a gun or other weapons could step up, and sit down to talk. No Beck inventory, no Briggs Meyers.

Some project specific curriculum and training might be needed, but we would consider listeners in its initial iterations as passive, while providing body language indicating the listener is hearing what is said. Would succeed best with emphasis on recruitment and training. It would be a real people business.

If this were to become an accepted practise, set up next to the key cutting kiosks and neck massages, the training could grow. My experience, and not just for kids, has been positive with the “How to talk so kids will listen, and how to listen so kids will talk approaches by Adele Faber, and Elaine Mazlich. maybe a bit of Virginia Satir and her book “people making,” but would need our own curriculum as the service moves to “active listening.” Both could be offered, with “active listening” requiring an upgrade to premium.

Listeners would have a few prompts if needed, but it’s the listeners paying, so their imperative. There are more and more people living single lives…this would be easier, and a wholesome personal service compared to some others. So pick-up a pre-packaged dinner after you’ve used 20 minutes you would give to prep time, to emotionally preparing to go home whether it’s a zoo or you live alone (I think still the largest market).

Until robots have AI, this business would be about lightly trained listeners listening to people, offering no answers to personal questions and dilemmas, no referrals with qualifiers that Listen INNG offers no therapeutic recommendations. Could be set up at malls big box stores, festivals. If pleased with being heard, likely return business. Think about massage therapy…But unrealistically they would expect listeners to remember them and what they had said. So note taking, also company trained. Everyone with a tablet…

Response # 1
Yesterday I was a passenger on the way to an event, with the driver talking about a workplace situation where he kept telling an employee the same thing over and over again, and she didn’t get it, and nothing was changing. I suggested active listening. I don’t know how impressed he was with that idea, because it is counter-intuitive: we “know” when someone is stupid or wrong so we keep repeating ourselves, hoping they’ll “get it.” Hard to set that “knowing” aside and start listening.

I think it would be quite possible to sell active listening as a technique to get the change you are looking for. But the thing is–it’s not really a technique. Yes, there are some elements that can be learned with practice. But the heart of it is to set one’s own ego aside and truly seek to understand the other person. Setting one’s ego aside . . . how do you teach that? A true active listener has to be in touch with his/her own disquiet, and able to self-calm.
Response 2
This idea really isn’t so new. Couldn’t one simply say that this is what has been taught in clinical counseling courses around the world for the past, what?, century (or slightly more). Sure, there have been some interesting twists and turns along the way, some salutary, some very much not, but the whole spin has been toward the ability to listen actively, including the notion of asking prompting open-ended questions that emerge from active engagement with the speaker. And, setting one’s ego aside, haven’t we been trying to take this on for centuries with yoga, with Zen Buddhism, hell, with Christianity? (I am nothing but a vessel of the Lord…)

My Response
Sure, you’re right. I would propose quickly two answers…one cynical…but no-one has exploited the lower end mass market for this. Imagine all the Trumpeter’s getting what really bothers them off their chest before they have to vote for a numbskull or someone decides to shoot up a school (there could be discrete entrances maybe buy up all the tanning salons going out of business). I started out cynical but always me the optimist will out. And all those Catholics who miss confession, and those Protestants and Jews who long for confession, etc…Could something like this make money? Maybe its like seeing Santa Claus with greeters giving you a hug, while you go sit on the couch and talk, and then shepherded out with another hug, to go for your wallet. While “Three Hugs a Day, that’s the minimum” by Sharon Lois and Bran plays on………so touching…how to regulate?

Response 3
Well, I know that you’re trying to democratize or generalize an idea that’s been with us for a while, and I like the idea of just supplying some listeners. Listeners who don’t talk; they listen. And, they’re paid to listen. 

That’s cool. I’m just pointing out that there might be a few hurdles. But, maybe not many. Maybe there will be no licencing problems because there’s no therapeutic intent or intervention of any kind. It’s all totally passive. I like the image of the RC confessor. Without the final mention of 100 hail marys.

I don’t know. I think the concept needs some work to turn it into a money-maker, that’s all…





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