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Lessons In Listening

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Lessons in Listening
By Cheryl Thompson, LPCC
Clinical Therapist II

Have you ever had a conversation with someone where you suspected that they were just waiting for their turn to speak, and not really listening? As frustrating as it is, it’s a common problem. Many of the arguments and misunderstandings we have with others can be attributed to poor listening skills. Interrupting, criticizing, assuming, and misinterpreting are just some of the barriers we face in trying to communicate effectively. If you follow these simple tips to listen more actively, communication in your relationships is sure to improve.

  • First of all, make the effort to truly listen to the other person – this means making a mental note to process their words.
  • Try to actively resist the temptation to come up with a response or counter argument while they are speaking.
  • Avoid interrupting, unless you need clarification on something that’s been said. If you are confused, or need time to think about what they have said, let them know.
  • Try not to be judgmental – remember the other person has the right to their own opinion, no matter how much you disagree.
  • Acknowledge that you are hearing the other person – nod, use appropriate facial expressions, make eye contact, and give verbal acknowledgements such as “I see.”
  • When they have finished, repeat their statement back to them in your own words. Make sure you understand their point before you respond.
  • Think about your response. It’s OK to tell them you need a moment to think about what you are going to say.
  • When forming your response, be careful to avoid assumptions – use phrases like “When you say (their statement), then I hear (your interpretation). Is that accurate?”
  • Take turns – make sure you respond to the other person’s viewpoint before you share your opinion on the subject at hand.


These skills can take a lot of effort, time, and practice to learn. Talk with friends and family to let them know you are trying to improve your listening skills. Ask them to practice these skills with you and provide feedback.

 

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