Expressing our emotions such as fear, happiness, anger, sadness and many others used to be taboo, and reserved for intimate moments or therapy. Today it has become part of our day-to-day exchanges. Faced with diverse forms of violence we remain powerless. Whether we are teachers, parents, managers or politicians, our emotional intelligence can help us deal with difficult situations. We are at the beginning of a different era in communication and it is likely to influence our relations with others and with ourselves.
How did this change come about?
First of all the impact of the concept of personal development seems to reflect our need to live in harmony and peace, to be free and responsible for our lives. The increasing influence and democratisation of contemporary psychology are opening doors to new approaches and experiences. Being able to manage our own frustrations and disagreements with others, developing listening skills and our openness to learning from our relationships, doubtlessly contribute to our emotional health. Several experiments around the world are raising the hope that these skills will one day be taught in schools.
Secondly, the amount of information on the subject has literally exploded over the last years in the mass media. A brief visit to the human science department of any library and seeing the number of books and best-sellers on human relationships makes this obvious.
Focusing on empathic listening means being completely available, acknowledging and reflecting one another’s emotions and basic human needs. Receiving empathy enables clarity, relief, trust and self-confidence; it leads to resilience and healing. Scientists around the world have demonstrated that the way human beings manage their emotions has an impact on their physical and mental health.
The listening centres play a crucial role in reducing the number of people who develop mental and emotional health problems and in eliminating stigma associated with mental or emotional problems. They understand what people need for emotional health, and the most appropriate ways to provide effective interventions to all in need.
The IFOTES members’ experience of training non-professional volunteers to give emotional support has had an interesting outcome. By developing listening skills and learning how to manage emotions, they benefit from better emotional health for themselves.
IFOTES believes that working with its members, it can be effective in promoting emotional health from communities to schools, thanks to their 40 years experience of offering empathy through listening.
Former Chairman, IFOTES
Congress Vienna, 2010