Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Active listening, and when it does not work...

Active listening skill is one of the most well recommended communication skills for letting others know you are paying attention, for encouraging them to open up, for understanding others. In a nutshell, active listening is putting into words your understanding of what the other person has said.

For an example, you were late for your date. Your date said"You told me you'd be here at 5:30 and here it is, 6:30!" An active listening response would be "You sound angry."  There will not be any judgments or criticism, but merely a statement to show other person know you have heard the message. 

Active listening is one of the most used skills by me in my counseling sessions, and it works every time and works like wonder. My clients will open up, feel validated and heard. However, active listening does not work most of the time in my relationship with my husband. Instead of opening up, he shuts down, ignore my response, denied his feelings or asked me not to talk to him as if I were in a counseling session.

I had to come up with another way to communicate with him. I figured out the reason active listening does not work for my husband is because statements like "you sound angry" gets too personal for him and it puts him on the spot.  So, instead of using "you", I use "that".

In the same situation above, if he says "You told me you'd be here at 5:30 and here it is, 6:30!" My response will be " That must sucks for all the waiting." It provides him an opportunity to vent and communicate with each other.

For anyone out there who would like to improve their communication skill, and when active listening skill does not work for you, try this little alternate technique.


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