Tag: listening

3 Tips for Talking About Difficult Topics

3 Tips for Talking About Difficult Topics

No one wants to talk about painful subjects. We don't like to feel that awkward gut knot that develops when we're dreading a certain conversation. We need to do it, though, and it doesn't have to be totally horrible. Following these tips may make it a little easier:

1. Narrow it down to a couple points. Difficult topics require planning. Don't just jump right in without thinking it through first. Weed through all your thoughts and boil them down to 2-3 main points to discuss. Having a very brief mental outline will help you stay on track and choose the best wording for the conversation. If you don't narrow it down to a few points, the conversation will quickly turn into verbal vomit. 

2. Choose the best time. Be picky about when the conversation takes place. Plan ahead for it. Don't talk about something difficult after a bad day at work or when the kids are screaming and running through the room. Select a time that is fairly peaceful, and without distractions. It's tempting to just jump right in when the mood strikes, especially if you're angry, but that won't yield the best results.

3. Keep calm. Getting emotionally charged will not help. Lay out your points calmly and kindly. Even difficult conversations can, and should, be respectful. There is no need for yelling or name-calling, which will only make the situation worse. Prepare ahead of time so you can remain calm during the conversation. Be sure to listen when it's your turn for that, too. Consider the other person's viewpoints.

Not every confrontation needs to turn into a knock-down-drag-out. Following the tips listed above will help you keep calm and talk it out. 

3 Ways You're Not Listening

3 Ways You're Not Listening

Most people assume they are good listeners. They probably don't give listening much thought at all. It just seems natural to listen, doesn't it?

Unfortunately, effective listening is rare. That's why there is so much miscommunication in the world. It's why incorrect assumptions are made. It causes fights, conflict, and anger. If you think you're a good listener, it's easy to tell if you're right.

If you do any of the following, you might not be listening as well as you could be:

1. You formulate your response while the other person is talking. It's impossible to truly listen to what is being said if you are doing that. You'll miss vital details, and you won't be in tune to the other person's verbal cues. If you find yourself thinking while someone else is talking, shift your focus to the speaker. Don't worry about what you'll say next. Simply listen. You'll have plenty of time to think and decide what to say when the other person is finished.

2. You interrupt. If you finish other people's sentences or jut in to share your own stories, you can't possibly be listening. Interrupting is frustrating to the other person, and that person will stop truly sharing. It sends the message that your ideas are more important. Instead, bite your tongue. Wait until the other person is totally finished speaking before you say anything. You will have plenty of time to share your thoughts when the other person is finished.

3. Your cell phone is your priority. For the love of God, put down that darn phone. Nothing shows disrespect quite like staring at a screen while someone is talking to you. Shut off the ringer, and refuse to look at it. Even checking a message or answering a text is a clear indicator that you are not truly listening to the other person. No one can multi-task like that, and it's rude anyway. Your phone can wait.

If any of those ring true for you, it's never to late to change your habits and hone your listening skills. Pay attention to it and make necessary changes. It's worth it because effective listening shows you care and ensures that you'll truly hear other people.


Two Ears But Only One Mouth

Two Ears But Only One Mouth

Would you like to know the secret to becoming the most amazing conversationalist EVER?

LISTEN to the other person with genuine interest.

Most people enjoy talking about themselves (myself included!), but most people don't get to do that very often. They are swamped with work, kids, problems at home, and financial issues. Their usual conversations revolve around those topics, so they don't usually get a chance to discuss their interests, hobbies, or what is on their heart. If you take a genuine interest in those things and actively listen to what they have to say, you will be a great conversationalist and friend.

When I was younger, I mistakenly assumed that the way to have a lot of friends or be an interesting person was to impress everyone with myself and my accomplishments. It didn't take long to realize that most people do not care about that stuff. What they do care about is being heard. I learned to talk about myself less and ask more questions about the other person. I have been amazed by how easy it is to make friends and have great conversations when I turn my focus to the other person.

Quite honestly, this shift is not difficult! I truly like people and finding out more about them. It is astonishing how gifted and talented other people are. Everyone has some hidden talent that they love to discuss if asked! It's amazing to hear other people's experiences... some people have sure overcome some adversity in their lives! Others have achieved huge successes that surprise me and make me so glad I asked! I have found that I have something in common with everybody, and there is some way for us to connect no matter who I'm talking to. Other people are INTERESTING! Each one was hand-crafted by God; no wonder they are so fascinating!

Someone once pointed out that humans have two ears but only one mouth, and we should listen and speak in that proportion. Makes sense, doesn't it?!

By listening more, it's easier to understand why people are the way they are. When I know where they've been in their lives I can empathize with their struggles and offer encouragement when appropriate. By listening more, I can network more effectively. For example, by talking to a woman recently I discovered she was a retired artist who loved to create business logos just for fun now. I have a friend who popped into my mind who could benefit from her service and I was able to connect the two. Everyone excels at something and it's an awesome challenge to discover what it is and encourage them on their journey!

So the moral of this story is that the best way to be a friend is to listen more and be genuinely interested in the other person. The saying goes, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." Care enough to ask questions and learn about someone else. That is more impressive to someone else than all the accolades on your resume!
Active Listening: 4 Ways to Really Hear Your Spouse

Active Listening: 4 Ways to Really Hear Your Spouse

When we think about communication, talking is what generally comes to mind. Talking, however, is only one component of effective communication. Active listening is another, and it's just as important as talking. In a marriage, it's absolutely vital. This type of listening is not passive; rather, it takes purposeful effort.

Unfortunately, most of us have quite poor listening skills. We tend to monopolize conversations rather than putting the other person first. We usually listen to hear what we want to hear, or we listen in order to formulate a response. These behaviors are deadly sins in the context of good marriage communication. Listening makes the other person feel important and respected, while lack of listening makes the other person feel unimportant, trampled, and ignored.

If your goal is to improve your listening skills and really hear what your spouse has to say, here are four ways to do that:

1. Zone in on your spouse. First, remove distractions. Shut off the TV and phone, have the kids go in another room, and put away work. Next, make good eye contact by looking directly at your spouse. Don't look at the floor, squirm in your seat, or look elsewhere. Finally, don't interrupt. Allow your spouse all the time necessary to tell an entire story. Don't finish your spouse's sentences or correct him/her. Be patient until it is your turn to speak, and don't daydream about what you plan to say next. Simply listen.

2. Use appropriate body language. To begin, uncross your arms. Crossed arms automatically make it seem like you are annoyed or defensive. Rather, sit forward to show interest and keep your hands in your lap. Your goal is to make your spouse feel comfortable. To that end, it's also a good idea to mentally check your face. If you are scowling or frowning, relax your face so your spouse will feel at ease. Next, stop talking. It is impossible to listen while simultaneously speaking. We have two ears and one mouth, and they should be utilized in that proportion. Finally, occasionally nod in understanding. This nonverbal cue lets your spouse know that you understand what he/she is saying and that you are interested in hearing more.

3. Interact and respond. First, make sure your spouse is truly finished speaking before responding. The worst thing you can do is jump in the moment your spouse pauses to take a breath. A good rule of thumb is to wait several seconds to be sure he/she is done. Next, ask a few questions that come to mind about what your spouse was saying. Ask for clarification on anything you weren't sure about. Don't assume anything-- ask instead. Finally, show your spouse you were listening by rephrasing and summarizing some of what was said. One way to do that is to say, "It sounds like you are saying... xyz." Your spouse will either nod in agreement at that point or will clarify the parts you did not understand.

4. Handle it well. Sometimes the hardest part of communication is handling what we hear. We may not agree with something, we may feel offended, or we may get angry. It is important in marriage communication not to attack your spouse. Instead, try to see things from your spouse's point of view. Just because you disagree does not mean that you cannot try to understand things from your spouse's perspective. Rather than attacking or reacting emotionally, say something like, "I'll have to take some time to consider that." That shows your spouse that you have been listening and that you care enough to think more about what they have said. Even if you never agree on a particular issue, that does not mean that you have to fight or argue about it. Rarely do two people agree on everything, even when they love each other. This can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you choose to handle it. Handling it well will ensure that your spouse feels safe enough to share with you in the future. If you attack every time you disagree, your spouse may eventually stop sharing.

These four steps to better listening skills are a good start toward making your spouse feel loved and heard. Listening shows you care. Practice what you've learned here, and you'll be well on your way toward better communication.