I cannot tell you how many times I observe two people circling around the hamster wheel with a communication problem because the listener is not actually listening. They are defending or rationalizing or talking about themselves.
Listening is such hard work, but it truly is one of the best ways to build a relationship… or to repair it! It really is…
It is quite common in couples or family therapy for me to slow down the communication process and identify who is the speaker and who is the listener. Then later in the session we switch roles. This helps both people to feel heard and acknowledged instead of circling around on the hamster wheel talking about the same problem while no one is really listening.
In some cases, a client is also telling me that their partner is complaining about their communication skills and they do not listen, but they are struggling with what behavioral changes are required.
There are four steps you must use at the Relationship Repair Counter to be an active and engaged listener! So, when it is your turn to listen to someone you love or work with….
- Listen without interrupting.
- After there is a pause, reflect what you heard the speaker say. The easiest way to do this is to say, “It sounds like….” Then insert a summary of what the other person has told you.
- Then ask, “Did I get that right?” By asking this questions you are finding out if you heard the speaker correctly, if not then they will usually try again to tell you what they want you to hear and you should go back to Step 1 and try again to go back through Step two and three.
- Finally, say “I can understand why you would see it that way.” Or I can accept that you feel that way, it makes sense.” These are examples of validation.
If you need more practice because you did not grow up in a household with these kinds of validating responses, you are NOT alone. Trust me. However, if you can get these steps in your head and practice them you can help people in your life feel heard and acknowledged.
Many clients who struggle with these listening techniques do practice them during couples or family therapy sessions. So if this is something you need help with please contact one of our Relationship Repair Associates today for an appointment.