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Are you listening?

One of the most common issues that I see as a therapist is ineffective communication. Often times I have parents stating “they won’t listen to anything I say”, and other times it’s a couple that are on the verge of ending their relationship because they are “not connecting anymore”.

Regardless of the circumstance it is important to note that communication is fundamental in every relationship. But what if I told you that listening is the most important aspect of communicating, would you agree?

When we think about communication, talking is what usually comes to mind. But more important than talking is listening. Active listening requires the listener to concentrate, empathize, respond and reflect. This is where most people are failing when it comes to effective communication.

One of the questions I ask my clients to ask themselves when detailing their communication difficulties with others is, “are you listening?” If they are being honest with themselves the answer is usually “No”. When you examine your communication pattern you may notice that instead of listening to what the other person is saying you are daydreaming, thinking of a comeback, or tuning them out completely. Effective communication requires that you are clear in what you are saying, but also that you are actively listening to what the other person is saying to you. Practicing the following steps will lead to improved communication in all of your relationships.

  1. Give the other person your full attention

  2. Maintain good eye contact

  3. Don’t interrupt

  4. Reflect back what you heard and allow for clarification if necessary

  5. Empathize-try to put yourself in their shoes, or think about how they may be feeling

Remember that developing active listening skills takes time. Continue to utilize the techniques listed above and you will eventually begin to see a change.

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