Coping technique: Communication (listening)

Please note that you should always consult with your physician before making any changes in your diet, your level of exercise and activity, medication or behaviors related to substance use.

The best way to make use of these techniques is to read through them, select three that stand out to you and practice them. I would be glad to hear from you on your responses.

  1. Communication begins with listening.
  2. Clear your mind. Make yourself available to listen. This means turning off the television, getting up from your computer, setting aside your iPhone or tablet. Be present.
  3. Therefore, if you’re angry or upset (especially with the person you’re going to be listening to) you might not be in a receptive state. Your mood can color what you hear. Consider postponing the conversation, if you can. If that’s not possible, bear in mind that you might be hearing your own feelings, and make allowances.
  4. In this same way don’t interrupt them while they’re speaking. Interrupting can be breaking in with your own comment, correction, response. It can also mean turning away, beginning to do something else.
  5. While the other person is speaking indicate that you’re listening. Verbally this is done by those brief things we say, like, “Uh-huh. I see. Hmm.” Nonverbal indicators include maintaining eye contact, leaning forwards, nodding. In terms of body language indicators include relaxed posture, hands unengaged (not clenched in fists or drumming your fingers or playing with an object), arms and legs open rather than crossed.
  6. Paraphrase what you hear the other person say, so that they know you’re listening. Keep it close to what they’re saying, without trying to reach conclusions ahead of them.
  7. As you listen, listen for what the other person is saying about themselves—how they feel, what they need, their thought process. Sometimes we listen with an ear towards information about us—that we’re good or bad, that our feelings about ourselves are being corroborated or denied. What is the other saying about their experience of being in the world?
  8. Validate what the other person is saying, if you can authentically. Validation doesn’t mean that you agree with what they’re saying, that you think they’re correct in their assessment or even that you support their position. It means that you see why they believe what they believe, based on what you’ve heard them say.
  9. Consider responding with an empathic statement. This means, take your best shot at what you sense they might be feeling about what they’ve just said.
  10. Unless the person is asking for your advice, consider not providing any. A lot of us respond to descriptions of problems by going into problem-solving mode. That can be an unintentionally effective way to end the conversation prematurely. “Here’s what you should do” can sound an awful lot like “I don’t want to hear about this anymore.”
  11. At the end of the conversation ask, “Is there more? Did I get it?” You might even ask, “Do you feel heard?”