Podcast 041: Listen to Engage

In todays episode of the Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast, “Listen to Engage”, Aaron speaks to us about the need for youth workers to listen respectfully to their young people. One of the keys to developing respectful engagement with our young people is the skill of listening to gain understanding of how they view their experiences.

Listen to Engage

We have two ears and one mouth, so the proverb goes, so listen twice as much as you speak. As youth workers we engage in a relational profession. We speak, we listen, we engage. Unfortunately, we can sometimes forget this. We listen to inform our young people of our opinions. We refute or rebut their view of their experiences. To answer before listening is our folly and our shame. Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent. For us to engage respectfully we need to put our young people at the centre of our engagement. Treat them with dignity, understand their experiences from their point of view and respect their autonomy

Six steps to good engagement

Here are a few tips that will help you to engage respectfully with your young people. When having a conversation it is extremely important to listen well.

Pay attention

It is easy for our minds to wander. If we do not pay attention it is impossible to engage well. We need to be active listeners. Use our minimal encouragers. Look them in the eyes when they make their points. Focus on what they are saying. Actively listen.

Hold your judgements

Hold your tongue, your beliefs and judgements. This is key to relational practices. What we think is not important here. It is all about being focused on the young person.

Reflect on what has been said

Take time to think. You do not have to speak straight away. Let what has been said truly sink in to your brain and heart.


Seek first to understand before you seek to be understood. Make sure you understand what has been said. If you are unsure ask questions to clarify.


Once you have paid attention, held your judgement, reflected on what had been said and clarified any misunderstanding this is a good time to summarise and paraphrase what has been said to make sure you have fully understood your young person.


If you have done all of these things then you will have earned the right to speak into the lives of the young people.

Today’s resources

Here are links to some articles and training that have bearing on todays podcast:

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Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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