PQ 6.7 — Active Listening: Restating and Things to Avoid

a cartoon drawing of two people. the person on the left (who has a bow in their hair) is speaking to the person on the right. the words are represented by two bubbles slightly staggered (one pink, one blue). The person on the right (who is wearing a plaid shirt) has the words "just listen" written on their forehead in cursive
Image by studiobeerhorst / CC BY

PQ 6.7 — In what ways do I actively listen to my partners?

“In order to be loved, we have to love, which means we have to understand.”

-Thich Nhat Hanh

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“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand. They listen with the intent to reply.”

-Stephen Covey

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Maybe it’s because I’m a talker, but my favorite people have always been excellent listeners. It’s a skill that’s quite a bit rarer than the gift of gab. And very valuable.

Active Listening Involves Restating What Is Said to You

The core skill of active listening is quite simple: Restating what the other person has said to you, indicating that you understand. And this restatement should be a paraphrase or summary. With no judgement, no advice. Just giving them a simple sign that their message got across and you understand. And asking for confirmation if you’re unsure.

“So what I’m hearing is that you’re frustrated with your work load.”

“It sounds like you’d like more dates with me on weekends and not just weeknights. Is that correct?”

Things to Avoid When Actively Listening

  • Interrupting. Cues that people are done speaking can be unclear, so if you do interrupt, apologize and allow them to speak.
  • Asking “why?” questions. These often make people defensive.
  • Giving unsolicited advice. If you have something you’d like to give input on, bridge the gap by asking for their consent. “Could I make a suggestion?” (And be okay if with a “no” if they refuse.)
  • Reassuring them too quickly. “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine” is usually said in a well-meaning way but will often come off as dismissive.
  • Using the time that they’re speaking to formulate your own response. You can do that after they are done speaking.

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This post is part of a series in which I answer each of the chapter-end questions in More than Two with an essay. For the entire list of questions & answers, please see this indexed list.

 

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