Active Listening

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           Last Friday evening, Dr. Buddy Lynch stressed the importance of communication to our marriages.  He shared a quote that says, “If you can’t communicate, you’ll disintegrate.”  I think that statement is true of all relationships, not just marriages.Much of my life’s experience indicates the important part of good communication, which is most frequently absent, is non-toxic feedback.  For communication to happen, we have to listen and speak.  If I’m preparing my response while someone is talking to me, then I am not really listening.  I am arguing.

If I give that other person non-toxic feedback then I have to listen to what he/she is saying and I will attempt to understand the feelings in addition to the facts.  Too often, though, our actions indicate we assume we know what the other person is saying before they’ve even finished.  But if I put my understanding in my words and ask if that is what was intended, then I find out whether or not what I assume is accurate.

Active listening is hard work.  Maybe that’s why we don’t do it often.  Humans have a propensity toward laziness.  We don’t want to listen carefully.  But we can sure get riled with someone who won’t listen to us.

“Why that receptionist wasn’t listening to me!  I had to tell her three times that I couldn’t make my doctor’s appointment on Tuesdays or Thursdays!”  “He heard the words, but didn’t pay any attention to how serious this matter is!”  Those are two statements that reveal the speaker felt like listening had not occurred.

Do you listen to your spouse?  Your children?  Your co-workers?  Do you give feedback to gain clarification and to communicate to your friend that you really do understand what is being said?  If you honestly have to say “No,” then I want to remind you of the Golden Rule—“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  If you want to be understood when you are speaking, invest the time and energy to understand the other person.

John Kenneth King

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