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Taking the time to listen to other people

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April 11, 2018

Shepparton's Robert McLean will be in Maude St Mall today offering people a sympathetic ear - and no topic is off-limits.

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Today is International Free Listening Day, a movement born on the streets of Los Angeles which has spread to six continents and 50 countries.

Former News editor and local community activist Robert McLean has taken up the Free Listening baton, bringing the concept to Shepparton.

Mr McLean will be in Maude St Mall today offering people a sympathetic ear — and no topic is off-limits.

The exercise is designed to benefit both parties.

‘‘I guess for the listener it’s a sort of enriching experience because you get to listen to people. It helps you understand there are other people with other views,’’ Mr McLean said.

‘‘For the person who’s doing the talking it gives them the opportunity to have their say.

‘‘I’m an ex-journalist and those skills should help.

‘‘You just listen and you ask a question that will take them onto the next part of their topic.

‘‘You avoid being judgemental,’’ he said.

Urban Confessional, the movement behind International Free Listening Day, was created by a group of California-based actors.

Founder Ben Mathes said the concepts supporting Free Listening allowed people to come up and say whatever they needed to say.

‘‘When you hate a racist, you’re just continuing the cycle of hate. That feeling of loathing often comes from a place of not being heard,’’ Mr Mathes told Uproxx press.

‘‘I want the power of listening, the power of connecting to be present in our cultural dialogue.’’

Mr McLean just wants to make a small difference in people’s lives and has been getting into practice, offering his listening service twice already in Shepparton.

‘‘Lots of people walk past ... and look at me pretty much like I’m odd (wondering) what is this strange person doing?’’ he said.

‘‘It’s about community in my mind and gives people a chance to be involved.

‘‘Hopefully something good will come out of it.’’

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