The most important skill in any relationship is to be able to effectively communicate. Most effective communication has more to do with how to listen than how to talk. If you know how to listen, you can improve your relationship with your friends and your family. You can create a better marriage than you have ever had.
10 Steps to Expertly Listening
Step 1 Acknowledging and Being Attentive
When talking with someone, you give verbal and non-verbal responses to what they are saying. Everyone enjoys having feedback, so they know you are listening. You should become aware of both the verbal and non-verbal reactions that you are giving when someone is talking to you. Therefore, the first step to expertly listening to someone is acknowledging that you are listening through verbal and non-verbal responses and acknowledging what they are saying.
Eye contact is a very important non-verbal response to show someone that you are listening. Other effective non-verbal responses to give to someone to show that you’re listening include nodding or smiling. Generally, you should match the expression on their face so that you have the proper response to what they are saying.
Some verbal responses that you can give include saying “uh-huh,” “No way!” “Wow” “Right” etc. Many of these responses are natural, but some may take practice. If you aren’t sure if you have good responses, ask! Ask someone close to you if you generally give good verbal and non-verbal responses while listening.
Sometimes, we need to adjust these natural responses because we aren’t aware from of the responses we might be giving. Perhaps you don’t realize that your non-verbal response suggests that you are uninterested in what the person is saying. Though this is a basic skill, you would be surprised to know how many people struggle with this basic idea of communication! Don’t take for granted that your responses are good. Pay attention to the responses you give and see if there’s anything for you to work on.
Step 2 Restating
After effectively acknowledging that you’re listening and being attentive to the person talking, the next step is to restate the person’s basic verbal message. This is another tool to let them know that you are paying attention to what they’re saying. Restating is simply repeating back to them what they’re saying and clarifying their basic message. Restating is a way to follow along what the person is saying.
Another purpose of restating is to help them correct your understanding if needed. You can start out by saying, “What I understand you’re saying is…” And restate what you heard them say. This also gives them the chance to clarify anything that you didn’t understand.
Step 3 Reflecting
Along with restating their words, you also need to reflect the content. Show that you have picked up on their non-verbal communication. Acknowledge and recognize their emotions. This is similar to restating, but instead of restating their words, you verbally acknowledge their emotions. “I understand what you are feeling is…”
Step 4 Interpreting
Step four ties into step two and three, and adds interpretation to their words and their feelings. What do you understand the deeper meaning is behind their words and their emotions. Sometimes there is no deeper meaning, and that is alright. But, most of the time there is. It is important that you know what that deeper meaning is and not just assume that you know. This is often where most get hung up by interpreting before the above 3 steps were accomplished. Unless s/he first feel heard and understood will s/he trust you can properly interpret.
Step 5 Summarizing and Synthesizing
The fifth step is summarizing and synthesizing steps two through four. You bring their words, emotions, and deeper meaning together to understand the whole message of what they’re saying. The reason for verbally doing these steps is to allow the person to guide you to understand what they are saying. This step allows you to bring together feelings and experiences to provide a focus.
Step 6 Probing
To further understand the person and what they are trying to say to you, you also need to ask questions. Step six is probing the speaker with questions in a supportive way to request more information or clear up any confusion. Questions can deepen your understanding and prompt the person to further explain their message.
Step 7 Giving Feedback
Finally, step seven is to give feedback. This is where you share your thoughts and perceptions of what they are saying to you. Many times people want to jump to this step before truly understanding the person. Giving feedback too soon can hinder communication and also make the person feel like you are not really listening. Instead, waiting until you understand will help them trust what you may share and appreciate relevant personal experience you may share as part of your feedback.
Step 8 Supporting and Caring
Step eight is showing warmth and caring in one’s own individual way. This step should be used throughout the whole listening process. Depending on your relationship with the person, you can simply offer a warm smile, hold their hand, or even put your arm around their shoulder. Putting the effort into non-verbally showing them that they are important to you will create an atmosphere of safety for them to talk.
Step 9 Checking Perceptions
Nine, checking perceptions. Like step eight, step nine should be used throughout the other steps. Internally, you should check your own perceptions. Try to look at the situation through the other person’s perspective. Challenge your own assumptions and interpretations. Try listening without any of your own prejudice.
Step 10 Being Quiet
Finally, be quiet. It is hard to listen if you are talking. Be cautious of interrupting them when you are talking, even if you are doing one of the other steps. Let them take the time they need to express themselves without interruption.
Listening is a skill and takes practice. Be patient with yourself as you try these ten steps. You can develop the skill to be an excellent listener.
If you need help with your communication skills or other couples therapy, contact Rodney Limb to schedule an appointment. Visit https://communicatinglove.com for more information. Call us today for a marriage consultation (208) 887-6283. Let’s work together to get your marriage strong again!
Rodney Limb has always enjoyed listening to people and helping them work out problems and struggles. As a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC), Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and a Nationally Licensed Hypnotherapist for over 20 years, he has helped hundreds of couples create a happy and thriving marriage out of disaster. He also provides counseling for anxiety, depression, stress, PTSD and overcoming various behavioral addictions.