Have you ever ended up saying something to a person that you later regretted?
Or, have you ever been in a situation when you wished you knew what to say, but just felt at a loss? My guess is we’ve all been in these situations, because we’re human. Let’s face it, none of us are perfect communicators, yet we know that healthy communication is key to building healthy relationships. Each and every one of us has room to grow when it comes to our communication and listening skills.
Avoiding unhealthy confrontation, while also building healthy communication habits, requires more than just biting our tongue in the midst of our differences, or only choosing words the other person wants to hear. What it does require is really hearing the other person with the primary goal of understanding where they are coming from, or what they are feeling at the moment. One psychologist and often quoted author has said that for many people feeling understood is so close to the feeling of being ‘loved’ that for many those feelings are almost indistinguishable from each other. Do you relate to that? This is why learning to really listen and deeply hear a person with the goal of genuine understanding is one of the greatest gifts we can give another human being, particularly with those we love and want to have a good and healthy relationship.
4 key elements to good listening skills (HEAR):
HALT whatever you are doing and offer your full attention.
ENJOY some breaths as you choose to receive whatever is being communicated to you—wanted or unwanted (deep breathing has a calming effect on us, helping us control our reactions).
ASK yourself if you really know what they mean, and if you don’t, ask for clarification instead of jumping to conclusions. You might be surprised at what you discover when you stay open-minded.
REPEAT back to them what you heard. This tells them that you were really listening.
Engage all four steps before sharing your own thoughts, opinions, or advice.
3 things to help you continue to develop this skill:
Write these HEAR steps down somewhere you can reference when you’re needing to have a difficult conversation with someone.
Practice it a few times with a trusted friend or family member in a role play of a difficult conversation.
When a difficult situation comes up, before you respond, recall the HEAR steps in your mind to help prepare and focus.
Do not listen with the intent to reply, but with the intent to understand.
1. David Augsburger, Caring Enough to Hear and Be Heard, Baker Publishing Group, 1992.
The information on this website is intended for general education purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional and/or medical advice.