LISTENING: AN ART GUIDED BY THE HEART

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In your relationships, are you really listening?

Do you try to understand the other person’s point before offering your own ideas?

Giving your complete attention to another person’s words offers him a treasure—a sincere gesture of care. Unfortunately, most of us respond to our loved ones either by telling stories about our own past or offering solutions.

Both types of responses prevent seeking to understand first, perhaps the most important of Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Listening from the Heart

When in a conversation with someone, open your heart, empty your mind, and listen. If you notice yourself thinking about your own past, refocus your attention on what he is saying. If you’re tempted to suggest solutions, remind yourself that actively listening is your goal.

To show your intent to understand, briefly summarize what you think you heard. After that person’s reply, summarize again.

Listening in this way not only shows that you care—it also invites the person to clarify his own thoughts and feelings, often leading to helpful insights. Perhaps the initial “problem” is something else entirely.

For example, if a friend tells you she’s worried about losing her job because her boss constantly criticizes her, tune in, breathe, and resist the urge to tell your own tale about a bad boss. Then paraphrase her words: “It sounds like you get a lot of negative responses from him.” Your friend replies, “Well, it’s not really criticism. It’s just that he has such high expectations.” Then you summarize (without giving advice), “Hmmm, high expectations. Tell me more about those high expectations.”

Responding in these ways elicits her feelings and encourages more detail, allowing both of you to explore the problem before seeking positive ways to address it.

Try It Out!

 1.  Select a friend or coworker who’s easy to talk to, and plan a 15-minute conversation without interruption.

 2.  You may want to begin by explaining that you’re working on your listening skills and reassure the person you have only good intentions—to understand what they say.

 3.  Ask the person to begin talking about something happening in their life. Listen intently while resisting your urge to break in with your own experiences or solutions.

 4.  When the person stops, pause to see if they’ve finished talking and take a moment to prepare your response. Select the most important parts of what was said and summarize one of them in your own words—for example, “So, you said (fill in blank). Tell me more about that” or “You mentioned the word (fill in blank). What does that mean to you?” TIP: If you’re talking less, and they’re talking more, then you’re doing great!

 5.  If it seems acceptable to the other person, at the end of the conversation, ask how it felt to be listened to this way.

Make It A Habit

In your everyday interactions, make a conscious effort to listen carefully to others and paraphrase what you heard. Withhold your own thoughts and reactions until you fully comprehend the other person’s position or experience. You will be amazed by the good will you create (and what you learn about the other person!)

Gigi Langer

Gigi Langer holds a PhD in Psychological Studies in Education from Stanford University. She is an acclaimed teacher, author, and speaker who has helped thousands improve their lives at home and work. Gigi hasn’t had a drug or drink for over 30 years, although she does occasionally overindulge in Ghirardelli chocolate and historical novels. She lives happily in Michigan with her husband, Peter and her cat, Murphy.

AVOID THIS KIND OF “SUPPORT” WHEN YOU’RE HURTING

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How many times have you shared a painful experience or emotion with another, and felt completely frustrated with their lack of support? In fact, you left the conversation feeling more alone than ever? 

 

An old saying, “Don’t go to the hardware store for milk,” warns us not to  look for understanding from those who are unable to give it. 

So, who are the best  people to turn to for emotional support? Although many think their lover or spouse should provide all the care they need, it’s an impossible task. Others turn to their family members whose own wounds may block them from providing the care we’re looking for. 

These three patterns will help you determine which people in your life are most likely to provide loving support when you’re hurting.

Pattern 1. “Here’s my solution,” rather than “Here’s how to access wise guidance.”

  • A less helpful friend suggests immediate solutions that attempt to control the situation. Because he’s uneasy with your discomfort, his goal is to fix it right now. Such advice can make the situation worse rather than better.
  • A helpful friend offers ideas and tools that bring you peace of mind and intuitive guidance. He’ll remind you that a serene state of mind will result in the best actions.

Pattern 2. “It’s all about me,” rather than “It’s all about you.”

  • A less helpful friend responds by sharing her own troubles. If she’s not able to focus on your concerns, then she may not be truly interested in your well being.
  • A helpful friend listens, carefully summarizes your thoughts and feelings, and asks questions to understand you. If this friend shares her own story, it’s only offered to give you hope; then she returns the focus to you. 

Pattern 3. “Let’s focus on the problem,” rather than “Let’s find a place of peace.”

  • A less helpful friend wants to hear the lurid details. She commiserates about how terrible your situation is and helps you justify your pain. Such friends end up reinforcing your resentments, fears, and worries.
  • A helpful friend refuses to escalate your fears by “awfulizing” events. She might suggest that you accept the situation as it is for now, and work toward a peaceful state of mind. Finally, she reassures you that this situation will find resolution in the best way for all, and that it may take time.
  • The Litmus Test: Consider how you feel after talking to the person. If you feel more agitation than hope, try sharing your vulnerabilities with someone else.

The most helpful people probably won’t come from your family. Your family members may unwittingly reinforce the very same patterns you’re trying to overcome. Give yourself some time to heal before you share deeply with family members.

Choose a confidant who holds no sexual attraction for you. A romantic partner hates to see you suffer, and may try to fix your problem for you. Or, if your partner struggles with security or power, their responses may be damaging rather than helpful.  

gigi langerGigi Langer holds a PhD in Psychological Studies in Education from Stanford University. She’s a sought-after speaker and retreat leader who has helped thousands improve their lives at work and at home. Order her award-winning book, 50 Ways to Worry Less Now at Amazon or get 20% off with promo code 20lessnow here.

 

 

 

 

Should You Trust A Friend’s Advice? 4 Tips

Share worries; connect; gigilanger; worrylessnow
Photo by Joshua Ness

When you’re worried or confused, who can you trust to be helpful?

How can you be most helpful when someone you love is hurting?

These four tips will help you determine which of your friends to share your troubles with.

Tip 1:  Notice how your friend responds to your concerns. Here are a few typical patterns — some more helpful than others.

a. “Here’s my solution,” rather than “Here’s how to access wise guidance.”

  • A less helpful friend suggests immediate solutions that attempt to control the situation. Because he’s uneasy with your discomfort, his goal is to fix it right now. Such advice can make the situation worse rather than better.
  • A helpful friend offers ideas and tools that bring you peace of mind and intuitive guidance. He’ll remind you that a serene state of mind will result in the best actions.

b. “It’s all about me,” rather than “It’s all about you.”

  • A less helpful friend responds by sharing her own troubles. If she’s not able to focus on your concerns, then she may not be truly interested in your well being.
  • A helpful friend listens, carefully summarizes your thoughts and feelings, and asks questions to understand you. If this friend shares her own story, it’s only offered to give you hope; then she returns the focus to you. 

c. “Let’s focus on the problem,” rather than “Let’s find a place of peace.”

  • A less helpful friend wants to hear the lurid details. She commiserates about how terrible your situation is and helps you justify your pain. Such friends end up reinforcing your resentments, fears, and worries.
  • A helpful friend refuses to escalate your fears by “awfulizing” events. She might suggest that you accept the situation as it is for now, and work toward a peaceful state of mind. Finally, she reassures you that this situation will find resolution in the best way for all, and that it may take time.

d. “Here’s my solution,” rather than “Here’s how to access wise guidance.”

  • A less helpful friend suggests immediate solutions that attempt to control the situation. Because he’s uneasy with your discomfort, his goal is to fix it right now. Such actions often make the situation worse rather than better.
  • A helpful friend offers ideas and tools that bring you peace of mind and intuitive guidance. He’ll remind you that a serene state of mind will result in the best actions.

Tip 2:  Consider how you feel after talking to the person. If you feel more agitation than hope, try sharing your vulnerabilities with someone else.

Tip 3:  The most helpful people probably won’t come from your family. Your family members may unwittingly reinforce the very same patterns you’re trying to overcome. Give yourself some time to heal before you share deeply with family members.

Tip 4:  Choose an individual who holds no sexual attraction for you. If you ignore this advice, your desire for personal growth may take a backseat to the romantic imperative, with damaging results.

For more on communication, check out Eric Bowers’ blog on www.roadtocompassion.com.

Gigi Langer of Worry Less NowGigi Langer, PhD is a sought-after speaker on professional and personal growth.  She has 35 years of experience in psychology, therapy, and recovery.  Gigi has co-authored five other books and is an award-winning writer.

Her latest book, 50 Ways to Worry Less Now: Reject Negative Thinking to Find Peace, Clarity, and Connection, will be released in March 2018