Just Listen! A Primer On Supportive Communication

A Primer On How To Listen

“I am so sorry to hear that. It reminds me of a time when I…”

Have you had this done to you? You are confiding to a loved one about a hard time and they immediately make it about them. I can attest that this has happened to me and frankly, it pissed me off. When my brother died in April 2014, the next couple of months after his death, I had a difficult time adjusting to life without him. I was tired of hearing, “My condolences” or “He’s in a better place.” There was a point where I kept my feelings to myself. I finally got the courage to voice my feelings about my brother’s death with one of my close friends, who in retrospect, wasn’t the right person to share my feelings with. What I experienced was how SHE felt and a dismissal of my thoughts and feelings. What was supposed to be a release for me ended up leaving me further upset and confused.

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Today, this thing called “adulting” isn’t easy.  If it’s not your job stressing you out, it’s your personal life comprised of family, friends, a significant other, and/or your children playing their part in your show. One or all these variables can have a person in a tailspin and all that they want to do is share how they are feeling. It is the responsibility of the person receiving these feelings to not make it about them, but really understand where the person affected is coming from.  The way to show support is to be an ACTIVE LISTENER.

No one is an expert in active listening and it isn’t mastered overnight. Here are some tips to remember:
1. Pay attention – Give the speaker your undivided attention and acknowledge the message. This is not the time to be preparing a rebuttal nor be distracted.
2. SHOW that you’re listening – Nod occasionally and encourage the person to continue with small, affirming verbal comments like, yes.
3. Provide feedback – Reflect on what has been said by paraphrasing or ask questions to clarify certain points.
4. Defer judgment – Now isn’t the time to interrupt or give counter-arguments. Take this opportunity to fully understand the message being given.  You are here to LISTEN.
5. Respond appropriately – when you are an active listener, you are encouraging understanding, compassion, and trust. When you respond to the message, be sure to speak your opinions respectfully and with honesty.

We move very quickly in a world that doesn’t take time to listen anymore. As a new year approaches, let’s all make the effort to be a better person and friend to those we care about by listening.

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