Listening from the Bench Fosters Civility and Promotes Justice

April 2014

Superior Court Judges’ Association
Skomania, Washington

Robert’s Fund consultants, Dr. G. Andrew H. Benjamin and Justice Mary Yu, gave a 2-hour workshop to help judges become better listeners. Judges are the symbolic heart and face of our justice system. When judges listen well, both civility and justice flourish. Often, judges can avoid protracted litigation and other potential problems by intervening early in cases when they suspect potential or actual incivilities between lawyers will escalate. Moreover, research has shown that a critical factor in our justice system is for litigants to feel heard. When people feel heard, they perceive that equitable process has occurred, even if the outcome of the litigation does not favor them. Such litigants are still much more satisfied with the Justice system than those who have felt unheard. Listening requires more than simply hearing spoken words. It requires us to approach the communication with openness, respect, and curiosity; to observe non-verbal communication and carefully read between the lines of written communication; and to consider the context of the situation and the speaker. In this interactive presentation, participants reviewed the value of listening, articulated ways in which listeners demonstrate that they have been heard, identified personal challenges they face as a listener, and discussed strategies to improve their listening skills.