Listening Skills

Be Mindful

  • It is important to the health of any relationship to be present in mind and body in each conversation.  As a listener, one should be careful to put aside any preconceived notions about the other person and preoccupations in our own lives and discipline ourselves to focus completely on what is being said.  The mindfulness shown is a sign of respect to the speaker; it shows him/her a level of committment to the relationship you share as well as to the speaker.


Adapt Listening Appropriately

  •  How we listen depends on the situation we’re in.  Ask yourself: Am I listening for pleasure? Am I relationship listening?  To whom am I listening?  For what reason am I listening to this person/ these people?  Remember to be mindful and attentive.  You may have to adapt your listening style depending on the attitude and speaking style of the other person. 




Listen Actively

  •  It takes effort to listen.  The listener has to focus, organize and interpret the words and underlying thoughts and feelings being said, express an interest in what’s being told to them, and the hardest part: remember what was said.  If a friend is chattering at you about something you don’t really care about, actively listening becomes a skill that requires hours of patience to perfect.  Because when they ask you,”What do you think?”, you better hope they don’t catch you staring blankly off into space. 

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Respond Constructively to Criticism

1. Seek more information

2. Consider thoughtfully

3. Do you want to change how you act?

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Respect Diversity in Relationships

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Accept and Confirm Others


  • A smile, a pat on the arm, a handshake; these all say hey! I recognize you as a person and confirm that you exist!


  • “Mhm,” “Oh that must have made you so mad,” “So what you’re saying is you think you’re going to lose your job?”–these all acknowledge what the other person is saying, and you’re letting him/her know that you confirm what he/she is saying and feeling and are responding in a person-centered way.


  • This is the strongest kind of confirmation.  What you’re doing here is accepting and confirming their point of view as well as empathizing with the other person. 



**This is not merely disagreement.  Disconfirming someone and what they’re saying, thinking, or feeling involves telling them: “You’re talking crazy!”  “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard!”  “Yea, can you stop talking because I really don’t care what you’re talking about”

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Affirm and Assert Yourself


  • Clearly and nonjudgmentally stating what you feel, need, or want
  • You are no less important or valuable than someone else and should make your own feelings known while still confirming those of your friend or partner

Aggressive vs Assertive

We’re going to spend time together VS  I’d like to create more time for us

Tell me what you’re feeling, NOW! VS  I would like to understand more of how you feel

I don’t care what you want; I’m not going to a movie  VS  I’m really not up for a movie tonight.  How about we do something special tomorrow?

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Actively Using Communication to Build Confirming Climates

Confirming climates create a supportive environment.  The way we speak to another person in a relationship, whether long-term or acquaintance, defines whether or not the climate is destructive. 

Communication researcher Jack Gibb studied these climates between people and identified six types of communication that either foster a nurturing, open environment, or promote defensiveness. 

DEFENSIVE                                                   SUPPORTIVE

           Evaluation                                          Description

           Certainty                                           Provisionalism

           Strategy                                            Spontaneity

           Control                                              Problem Orientation

           Neutrality                                           Empathy

           Superiority                                         Equality

Evaluation VS Description

∞  Evaluation=Judgment / Description=”I” statements

∞  Describe the event/person/feeling and use “I” language that tells how you perceive what’s going on, or how you feel

EX – “You’re slicing those vegetables all wrong”  VS  “I think your potato cuts are uneven; would you like some help?”

Certainty VS Provisionalism

∞  Certainty=Absolutism / Provisionalism=Openness

∞  Be reasonable when you can.  Just because you don’t want to hear it doesn’t mean it’s wrong or stupid.  Human beings hold their ideas very dear: it’s an extension of the thoughts and should be treated with respect.

EX – “I’ve already figured out how to ice the cake; save your breath”  VS  “That’s a good idea; I’ll use that on my next cake”

Strategy VS Spontaneity

∞  Strategy=Preplanning Your Attack / Spontaneity=Unpremeditated, Open, Honest

∞  Honest, straightforward communication helps you avoid resentment, manipulation, and angry feelings.

EX – “Remember when I did the dishes for you last week so you could go home early?”  VS  “Would you finish up here for me so I can run some errands before the bank closes?”

Control VS Problem Orientation

∞  Control=overt manipulation to get your way / P.O.= finding a solution that everyone agrees on

∞  Take account of everyone’s viewpoint and feelings.  Focus on reducing conflict and meeting the group’s and the individuals’ needs.  When people feel like they’re being heard and respected, work gets done more quickly and more efficiently.

EX – “I don’t care that you think the chef doesn’t know what he’s doing, this is my restaurant and if you don’t like it you can quit”  VS  “I hear what you’re saying.  Let me think it over for a couple days and I’ll get back to you with a solution.”

Neutrality VS Empathy

∞  Neutrality=detached, “I don’t care” / Empathy=respect and acceptance

∞  Respecting someone else’s viewpoint and ideas doesn’t mean you have to agree with them or think they’re right.  Just let them know that you care about them, respect them, and that what they’re sharing is important to you.

EX – “Ugh! This is so frustrating!  None of these danishes are turning out right!  Do you think I should just quit baking altogether?”  “I don’t care. Whatever.”  /  “I’m so happy my cookies came out perfectly.  What do you think?”  “They look really good!  You must have spent a long time working on these.”

Superiority VS Equality

∞  ‘Nuff said

∞  Noone’s better than anyone else, they’ve just made different decisions and look at the world differently.  Seriously– get off your soap box.

EX – “I’m a better chef than you’ll ever be”  /  “We’re so awesome!”

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Framing Rules vs Feeling Rules

Framing rules define the emotional tone of situations, whereas feeling rules tell us what exactly are the proper emotions to feel in said situation.  They are both defined by the culture we live in, but framing rules tend to be broad, and feeling rules are more individual specific.  Framing rules are like the bold heading of a paper: this is your topic; this is a point in time; this is a certain situation.  This depends on what culture you grew up in.  The situation can be the same for all cultures, but the framing rules, the tone, or the atmosphere, can be totally different depending on if you’re American, Chinese, Christian, Muslim, etc.  Feeling rules are meant for each individual.  They’re like the bullets under the heading.  These say what you’re allowed to feel, or what you have a right to feel in said situation.  If, at a funeral, framing rules dictate this as a happy occasion, you’re allowed to feel joy, pride, etc.  Your culture says you shouldnt feel angry or sad.

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