Active Listening

Active Listening is a very successful set of listening skills and techniques which encourage people to communicate more openly and freely… When a person uses active listening skills, the person who is speaking ends up feeling heard, seen, and thoroughly understood. Consequently, the two or more people who are in communication have a far greater chance at resolving conflicts, and achieving interpersonal peace and harmony, as well as greater intimacy…

“Active Listening” has many components, including body language ( such as nodding, eye contact, open posture, body and facial expressions) and verbal techniques such as “Reflective Listening”, Paraphrasing, asking “Clarifying Questions”, and making a “Content to Process shift.”

“Reflective Listening” entails repeating back to someone exactly what you heard them say, in their actual words.
“Paraphrasing” entails repeating back to someone what you heard them say- either the content of the feelings-by summarizing it and putting it in your own words. When someone senses that you truly understand the gist of what they are saying, they feel heard, and understood.

“Clarifying Questions” are asked in order to gain a deeper and more accurate understanding for what is being said. “Clarifying questions” lessen the possibility that the person talking will be misunderstood, and their thoughts and feelings misconstrued.

A “Content to Process shift” is when a listener is able to hear the hidden message that lies beneath what is being said, on the surface. Often, the content of what is being said is superfluous, and serves as red herrings that distract the listener, and disorients him or her, and gets him to lose sight of what the person communicating is really meaning to say.

Take, for example, a woman who scoffs at her boyfriend, and says, “You’ve become such a workaholic. All you care about is your work, and making money.” If the boyfriend in this instance listens only to what is being said ( the content) than he will likely become defensive, and angry, and include in his rebuttal, ” I do not work all of the time. And I am not only interested in making money….” In this moment, he may feel attacked, and misunderstood. However, I ask you, what do you think the woman is really trying to say? What process is going on here? Active listeners know better. They would have enough sensitivity and insight to see through her anger and frustration, and understand that she is more than likely trying to say, “I wish you wouldn’t work so much. I miss you. I want to spend more time together with you. I want to feel like I’m still a priority in your life, and that you still love me, and want to be with me.”

If the gentleman in this instance had the presence of mind to address her sadness, her insecurity, her self-doubts, and her anxiety, she in turn might very well feel attended to, heard, and cared for. The conflict between these two would resolve itself, and they would likely feel closer than they did before their altercation.

In conclusion, “Active Listening” skills play a substantial role in diffusing tension between people, and fostering intimacy instead. The purpose of these skills is to get into the other person’s shoes- to take on their perspective, and see how reasonable it is for him or her to feel the way they do. It is also a way to validate the other person’s reality, perspective, and point of view. People feel heard, understood, and cared for, and subsequently tensions fall by the way side, and peace and harmony take their place.

Please read the article, Active Listening Skills, which will hopefully answer this question for you, as well as shed some light on various ways to manage your anger, and work through your anger, so you can free yourself from its tight grip once and for all.

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