Whether you’re a friend, a partner, an employee, a boss, a world leader, or a parent, you will inevitably encounter communication challenges at some point in your relationships.
And there is one simple tool that will produce radical changes when you implement and practice it. It’s psych 101. It’s the first modality I learned as a graduate student in counseling psychology almost 20 years ago. It’s basic information that we all instinctively know yet easily forget because we’re not encouraged to practice it.
The tool is called active listening. In a nutshell, it’s validating emotions without offering solutions.
There’s a small miracle that occurs when you say less, listen more, and allow room for a quiet space to exist. In that quiet space, the creative wheels start churning and something wise comes to meet the situation. I’m endlessly amazed at what happens when I observe, describe, and then shut my mouth. Sometimes it feels like reining in a stampede of wild horses, but when I can contain my habitual desire to fix and repair, the results are empowering for everyone.
The same is true in situation with friends, partners, and family members. You may think that your partner is asking you to solve his problem when he begins Saturday morning with, “I don’t have a enough time! I work all week and then take care of the kids on the weekend so you can take a class,” but what he’s likely wanting is a simple, “That sounds really frustrating.” There’s certainly a time and place for creative problem-solving, but the creativity flows a lot more fluidly when there’s a shared foundation of empathy.
Just listen. Reflect. Hear with your whole heart. It’s what we all deeply want, and if you start to practice this simple tool you’ll begin to see dramatic and positive changes in all of your relationships.