Counseling listening skills are the most important skills a counselor or a friend or a parent or a lover can possess.
The good news is that listening skills can be learned, and practiced and mastered.
Actually, you do not even have to worry about getting them right or correct either, the gift is just in the practicing.
When I began professionally working with clients, my first mentor was Tony Kubicki, who taught me the value of giving the gift of attention, as he called it, and that skill was one of the primary skills he taught his domestic violence clients.
I like to use a model taught by Warren Farrell, author of the book, "Why Men Are The Way They Are", designed for use when one of the conversants is very upset.
The most important part of the model is for one of the participants to make an inside their head committment to listen, which does not mean agree.
That is a very important distinction. Listening does not mean agreeing or acquiescing or giving in.
Often when I walk through the steps of listening, I can watch people who are yelling slowly calm down as they get that I will pay attention to them.
The loudness usually means that this is a message that the yeller needs to have heard.
Make that initial commitment internally to practice your counseling listening skills.. You are not going to join in the argument, you are listening...which means you can ignore the non-verbal communication, unless you are threatened.
Repeat the words you are hearing to yourself, verbatim if possible, because you are going to repeat them back to your client/friend/stranger momentarily.
This particular tool, repeating their words in your head, keeps you from preparing your retort.
If you are going to submit a retort, you are in a push-pull shouting match and not a communication.
At some point you may need to ask the other person if you can summarize what you have heard thus far.
After repeating your summary, you ask the client if you heard the message correctly.
If they say no you did not, you ask them to repeat the message, and this particular sequence gets repeated until the speaker says that you did hear them correctly.
Initially communicating this way takes some discipline, however, the payoffs are magnificent.
When I can follow this internal blue print, conversations that begin conflictually calm down, and trust is built.
In an intimate relationship, building trust is so important.
Once the speaker can trust that you will listen, negotiations can begin, rather than shouting.
As John Gottman says in the Art and Science of Love, gridlocked problems in a marriage move into a state of flux and daily acceptable adjustments can be made in areas like parenting or spending. Couples are working together.
When I was beginning my personal growth journey, a wise person told me that when I was feeling resentful or afraid or sad, that I should remember the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I was ready to feel better. That phrase has helped me feel better tens of thousands of times.
Would you share what you are most grateful for? Your story could be just what another person is searching for to renew themselves? Thanks.
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