Listening

 

Silke Hansen

Senior Conciliation Specialist, Community Relations Service

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003


This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

The day that I left or the day before, a coalition of Korean business people who hadn't always necessarily worked collaboratively, but I had helped you know bring a little bit more cooperation there, came and brought me a plaque of appreciation. And I said something and it was really emotional. Some of the men were actually in tears, and Korean men do not cry a lot. I said, "Gee I really feel that I don't even deserve this. I mean I can see how great the need is but there was still so much to do, and I really didn't do a whole lot to make that any better." Their answer was, " But Silke, at least you listened."

I use this story often, not to pat myself on the back for getting a plaque, but to really emphasize the importance of at least listening and trying to understand what you are being told and that has been true in so many cases. I think that very often the biggest frustration or at least one of the biggest frustrations in victim communities is that they really feel like nobody is listening. Nobody is even trying to understand what their concerns are, what their issues are, and never mind trying to fix it. Actually taking the time that it takes to just listen, instead of saying, "well listen I've got another appointment, it was so nice meeting you bye," which is very often the temptation, was huge. I found that in most communities I've worked in.

Especially, initially, I have to spend a lot of time just listening, and listening not just to the immediate issue, but to the history as well. And to understand that even though some of those things may have happened ten, twenty, fifty years ago, it's still part of the current conflict. If you don't hear that, if you don't listen to that because it's not relevant today, then you are going to lose that credibility and that becomes really important.