"Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of the other person."
- Thich Nhat Hanh
I hosted a webinar on Thursday, 25 January, 2018 for professional investigators. The topic was criminal defense.
People don't - for the most part - really understand what professional investigators actually do. Criminal defense is one of the most misunderstood areas of practice. So, Mark Gillespie and I spent an hour talking about what we do.
We, it turns out, are paid to listen.
Yes - we investigate. We identify and locate witnesses. We review discovery. We even, sometimes, inspect a crime scene - usually well after the event in question happened. We write reports. We review reports. We research. All of this work, it turns out, is to get us in a place to listen.
Once we've gathered information and read (a lot), we try to talk with as many witnesses as we can. We prioritize the list. We don't often talk with everyone we'd like to, but we do talk with a lot of people.
When we finally sit down to interview a witness, our job is to listen. Mark emphasized this in our webinar. The discussion lead me to think of something I'd read by Thich Nhat Hanh, in which he talks about listening deeply.
I usually think of interviews in terms of what I can learn, but it has become clear to me that the witness - the person with whom I'm speaking - gets a lot out of the process too.
By listening deeply - compassionately - we can learn more. We can also afford the witness a chance to work their way through a memory or a traumatic event. When we listen deeply, the witness has a safe and nonjudgemental audience and she can open up. When we listen deeply, the witness has a chance to get things off their chest - vent. When we allow the witness to navigate their memories and pain, we - inadvertently - relieve a little of their suffering.
How's that for a two-for-one? The investigator, if she approaches the witness with an attitude of listening deeply, learns more. The witness, when he feels the investigator is listening deeply, sheds stress and suffering.
I've been reading a lot lately about listening deeply and looking deeply. These are both ideas important to mindfulness meditation. They both, if practiced with intention and regularity, allow for a more present and aware state of being.
I really love my work. I like talking with people and finding out what actually happened. I'm not concerned with good/bad facts. I just like to learn as many of them as possible. If they're good facts, that's great. If they're bad facts, I need to know them. I never really considered the other side of the coin.
The witness, the person with whom I've been speaking, can gain a lot out of the process too - especially if I make the effort to listen deeply.