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Tue, 09 Jul 24 10:00

The art of listening

Listening … sometimes I wonder if people do. Sometimes I go a whole day when I say many things, I am (in my opinion) lucid, articulate and occasionally even helpful – but some days people seem too busy/distracted/stressed/disinterested/tired (delete as required).

Of course as Directors of Children’s Services we describe ourselves as people’s people, we speak up strongly in favour of listening to children, their families, other professionals, members and colleagues. But do we really listen?

Sometimes it gets so bad that I can go a whole week wondering if people are actually listening to anything I say. Occasionally I deliberately talk complete gibberish (no comments please) to see if anyone notices – and wonder whether I would I be better off talking to myself, and sometimes I do!

So this week has been somewhat of a revelation, it turns out that many people have been listening after all. It has been a little like discovering a secret room in which every possession I have ever lost has reappeared! My cherished sheepskin coat from circa 1974 (pre vegetarian days), the keys for several VW beetles, my original Sgt Pepper and Rubber Soul albums (I still suspect classmate Peter Jarman nicked ‘em), and countless other items.

It has made we wonder about how we listen, cogitate, reflect and respond. Maybe our lives are so busy that deep listening is becoming a lost art. First email, then social media all demand immediate responses, anyhow three things this week have restored my faith a little and let me tell you why.

Firstly, the week began as many others have done for the past several weeks, with a family debate about whether the kitchen centre island should be painted trendy green (my suggestion) or whether (as the rest of my family would prefer) we should leave the reclaimed wood ‘au naturel’. Well guess what? I listened – they were right and I was wrong, two tins of Briwax have been ordered.

Secondly, ADCS have been talking with the DfE for many months now about the proposed accreditation, skills and knowledge process for children’s social workers and Alison O’Sullivan and I have been wondering if our ‘voice was being heard’. After a long conference call on Wednesday with DfE officials we have been left with a real sense of the ADCS position being recognised in the emerging discussion (although Alison and I had to do separate calls because diaries would not align!)

And thirdly, back in Essex the NHS grasped the notion of all systems thinking, finally acknowledging that the acute hospital crisis cannot be sorted without engaging GP’s, community health services, social care and the community! So they were listening these past years.

So here is to listening, but also cogitation and reflection and even to being wrong - need to rush off the Briwax has just been delivered.

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