Active Listening Responses

It is far easier to make judgments and sneak in your own viewpoint than to listen. The following comments show that in an emotional moment either person can turn conflict into true communication.

Speaker’s Comment Listener’s Rephrase Listener Label Feelings

Listener Validates

“How can I ever trust you to work out our problems when you left for two days?” “You think if things get tense again, I won’t be able to handle it and I’ll leave?” “The idea of trusting me seems to make you feel more worried and anxious.” “I can see why you would not trust me until I show you that I can be different.”
 “I left because our argument was so bad, I thought it would get physical.” “You thought the wisest thing to do was leave and not chance the possibility of a fight?” “The idea that we might physically fight must have been really scary for you.” “It makes sense that when I pushed you, you were afraid you might strike back.”
 “If you think I’m going to do my homework now, you’re nuts.” “You think that this is a very poor time to do your assignment?” “Are you resentful that I’m asking you to do homework when we have company?” “I can see why you would feel left out when everyone else is having a good time.”
 “You never listen to me-You just try to fix me.” “What do you mean when you say I try to ”  fix” you?” “You get frustrated when I think for you and give you solutions.” “It makes sense that you want me to hear your ideas instead of giving you mine.”
 “I have to do something to help you when you complain so much!” “You think that if you don’t help me, I’ll never feel better?” “You must feel a lot of pressure when I get upset.” “People have always counted on you, so I can see why you take over.”

Although these examples demonstrate the tremendous improvement that can take place in communication with active listening, they may bring up some concerns:

  • Active listening sounds so artificial! This is true. Feeding back, labeling feelings, and validating are learned responses. Reassuring, explaining, and insulting come from animal instinct and do not have to be taught. They are generally the worst thing to do during an emotional moment.
  • Am I supposed to start repeating everything I hear? You do not have to use active listening every time someone talks to you. Disagreeing and advising can make everyday banter fun and challenging. It is only during emotional moments, when you notice tension, that it is essential to switch gears and become an active listener.
  • Will I ever get a chance to speak? When you carefully listen without inserting your views, other people become curious about where you stand. Surprisingly, you will remember your own issues even though you’ve just put them out of your mind. However, your concerns may diminish when you thoroughly understand others.

Trying to get your point across without thoroughly understanding other people is like venturing into enemy territory without first doing reconnaissance work. Your power comes from understanding others-not from being understood!


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