Julie Morley, Personal Psychotherapist and Women's Stress Consultant
(MNCS Accred, Hyp.dip, dip.psysextherapy, Adv.dip.CP, )
Market Deeping, Peterborough, UK
Mob: 07761 065 726 Email: [email protected]
Understanding and Improving how we listen and Communicate
This page can teach anyone more about listening, even if we are already rather good listeners. We can learn about how to listen so that the other person feels more heard and better understood.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE COMMUNICATE
In general, when someone else is talking, this generates within us our own thoughts and or memories. So if someone is telling us about their cat, we might be reminded of a cat we once had or have, when that cat had something similar going on. Or it might be that if someone tells us about cats and we really dislike cats, we start to feel like telling that, personally, I don’t like cats and that is because of such and such.
THE EFFECT OF SHARING OUR OWN STUFF
However, whatever thought, feeling, memory or question comes up for us, when we are the listener, when we share it, it derails the other person’s flow of talking they were doing and can often take the conversation off into another direction which means the person never did get to tell their stuff and so they don’t feel heard. On top of this, because we are responding withour own agenda, and theyre still waiting to complete theirs, they are not truly listening effectively anyway.
WAITING TO SAY OUR BIT INSTEAD OF LISTENING
As we are all human, this is normal for us to have OUR stuff come up when others are talking and of course they do it to us in return, but while we are experiencing our thoughts and feelings, we are now waiting to say our bit instead of effectively listening because we are wanting to ease our frustration to release our own thoughts or memories.
Each person will do this to varying degrees and we might also do this more one day than another day and also it might change depending on who we are with and also sometimes on the social situation. We perhaps wouldn’t interrupt someone doing a public speech or presentation, but we will do this with our friends and especially children, because rather than wait for them to finish, we are older and often way ahead of where theyre going anyway and so we will jump in.
SELF AWARENESS AND MAKING CHANGES
The following technique is about learning to reduce our natural response to express what comes up for us, because this is just our stuff. Just a reaction. And often not needed for the situation. It takes some practice to let go of our stuff when it comes up, without feeling frustration or disappointment in not being heard, but remember, even if we do share our stuff, it won’t be heard very well anyway as the OTHER person is bursting to carry on telling their thing.
Altering this is a route to better listening for all involved as the awareness it raises means that not only do other people feel better heard, we learn how WE would feel better heard and say something when we are not being heard. We can also take the conversation back to where it was when a person de-rails our flow, and so others in your life learn skills too.
It can take some practice to change a habit we have done most of our lives. So give this some time and practice.
When next talking with someone, make the decision to internally watch what comes up in you WITHOUT saying it out loud. It might be a memory, a question or an opinion. However, note to yourself that that came up, let it pass and see if you can stay quiet while continuing to listen.
After they have stopped, instead of bringing ANY of your stuff up, see if you can do one of the following.
Reply back to them what you have said to see if you understood it right. For example ‘So the cat ate the food for 4 months and then just decided he didn’t like it any more?’ This is called a clarification where we clarify if we have understood correctly.
REFLECTING THEIR FEELING
If they are describing some stress, see if you can reflect back a feeling instead.
‘It sounds as though that stressed you out’
‘That sounds very disappointing’.
DON’T ASSUME WHAT THE OTHER PERSON WANTS OR NEEDS
After a clarification or reflection of feelings, they might or might not carry on talking or they might ask you what YOU think.
It is at this point, we can consider our opinion and share it. If we do this before being asked we are assuming they wanted us to solve a problem or give our opinion, and they may not have wanted that and they may have just wanted to rant or chat on about the thing they were interested in .
After they feel heard, they are then likely to ask about you, if the person is so inclined. Whether this happens can depend on the relationship, the situation, the personality type or many other things.
Here we have a choice. Do we want to share some stuff with this person or not and will we get what we need if we do. This now becomes a choice.
NB Sometimes during the time the other is talking, we might have to clarify something about what they're saying. This is not replying with your stuff, this is a form of effective listening so you don't have to try to stop this.
Remember, this can take practice.