Have A Good Listen

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010 at 5:36 pm

Typically when a couple has something they want to talk about, one says to the other:  “Hey, let’s have a talk about, …fill in the blank.”  But here’s the thing–we’ve all been trained to TALK, but we have not been adequately trained to LISTEN effectively.  So, imagine starting a conversation this way: “Hey, let’s have a listen about…fill in the blank.”

Sounds strange, I know, but it can set the stage in a completely different way that has a positive impact on your mindset going in to the conversation.  The mindset of listening.  It also sends the message that someone wants to be heard, doesn’t necessarily want or need any solutions at the moment, and wants to connect via being understood.

At the same time, the talker is not in the position to lecture the listener.  Instead, the talker takes the stance of talking about her or himself.  Why?  It raises the odds of being understood.  And, if you’re talking about yourself you tend avoid blaming, name calling, accusing,  and motive attribution, the usual suspects which run the risk of killing a productive conversation.

But what about the listener–what makes a good one?  Effective listeners tend to possess the following traits:  They are curious, they ask non-leading questions, they recap the gist of what they heard, and check it out to see if they got what the speaker was trying to transmit, they do not interrupt.  Perhaps most important, effective listeners work overtime at not letting their emotional reactivity get in the way.

Here are some tips on keeping reactivity low, some of which I am borrowing from master relationship communicator Warren Farrell.

1.  As a listener, imagine the speaker as if viewed on a TV or movie screen.  You go to the movies to watch and learn, and probably don’t let your ego and feelings get in the way of receiving the message of the movie.  Do the same with your partner–go to the show, so to speak, with the intent to receive the message.  Apply this same idea when listening to your partner. (One difference: don’t just walk out if you don’t like what you hear.)

2.  Let the speaker keep their energy on their side of the street.  If the speaker seems emotionally spun up, OK, let him/her be spun up.  The speaker’s emotional stuff is ultimately not about you, and therefore does not have to be contagious to you.  You’ll know you’re not leaving their energy on their side of the street when:  as a listener you interrupt, argue, attack, name call, blame, etc.  You get the picture.

3.  Give the speaker the benefit of the doubt regarding their intentions.  Chances are, the speaker is coming from a loving place,  wanting to improve the relationship, and the connection to you, the listener.  Believing that the speaker has the best intent leaves you thinking and feeling more positive.

4.  As a listener, know with certainty that each of you cares about the other.  It may be difficult, but try to realize as you listen to your partner that there have been many, and will be more, instances when you, as a listener will want to heard when it is your turn to talk.  This is more than ‘turnabout is fair play.’  This is loving reciprocity. When your partner listens to you, she/he listen because they care.  When you listen, it is because you care. Underscore in your own thinking the certainty that you each care about the other.

5.  A good listener asks questions until the speaker has completed their story.

6.  If time and energy are in adequate supply, you may each now reverse roles.  If not, pick a time when you can.

A productive conversation is more reliant on effective listening than on effective talking.  Hard to believe, perhaps, yet tends to be the case.  Fact is, most of us have grown up in family milieus that taught us to talk, but did not teach us how to listen.  Added to that, we were told to listen by those who themselves did not know how to listen.  It is a powerful double bind to have something demanded of us that we have not been taught to deliver.  Later on in our adult partner relationships we end up stumped.  Now you know why.

When the next issue arises, have a good listen!

Wishing you a satisfying relationship,

Jim Hutt, Ph.D., MFT

©2010 CounselorLink and Jim Hutt, Ph.D., MFT all rights reserved

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1 Comment »

  1. I thank you really much for this clear, simple and true words

    Comment by emmanuel — November 7, 2012 @ 5:38 pm

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