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I Hear You…What Did You Say? The Art of Listening in Communication and Healthy Relationships

Updated: Sep 30, 2019



If I could share with you one thing that would improve every relationship that you have, whether it is with your significant other, your children, your parents, your friends or your co-workers would you want to know. Well, I'm sure that you do.

It has been observed that we have two eyes and two ears to receive information and only one mouth to send information and that we ought to use them in that proportion. If we use this as a model for relationships we should invest 80% of our time listening and focusing on the other person and only 20% of the time speaking. Listening is a skill that can only be acquired through diligence and practice.

Dale Carnegie, in his famous book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, said, “So if you aspire to be a good conversationalist; be an attentive listener. To be interesting, be interested. Ask questions that other persons will enjoy answering. Encourage them to talk about themselves and their accomplishments.”

Building healthy relationships requires a few well-developed skills and some degree of creative artistry. Yet no skill is more valuable than the art of listening. One of the greatest challenges in many relationships is that we don’t listen to what people say and worse, we don’t listen for what they aren’t saying.

The True Value of Relationship

If you fail to value relationship, then you will not study the art of listening. Relationship is the chief concern of healthy people. Studies show that married people live longer lives than their single counterparts. Healthy growing relationships add dimension and depth to our lives. We express ourselves through relationships and we discover more about ourselves through relationships.

The true value of relationship is found in its ability to multiply us, to magnify our gifts and to compensate for our weaknesses. We are made better by the complement of healthy relationship.

Healthy Relationships Thrive on Good Communication

Thriving community is rooted in healthy communication. Healthy communication is build upon the skill and art of listening. We listen to and focus upon the things or the people we value the most. Our relationships are molded and made by the give and take of communication.

One of the chief challenges to a healthy relationship is “noise” otherwise known as “static” in the channel between the speaker and the listener. We all interpret what we see, hear and perceive through the filter of personal experiences, biases and attitudes. Often, we fail to hear what the other person means because we interpret their words in ways that fail to capture their intended meaning.

Four Laws of Communication

Dr. Osmo Wiio, the Finnish researcher concluded four things about communication which have become known as “Wiio’s Laws”. His insights may inform our efforts to improve as listeners and our goal of building healthy, productive relationships. He says,

  • If communication can fail, it will.

  • If a message can be understood in different ways, it will be understood in just that way which does the most harm.

  • There is always somebody who knows better than you what you meant by your message.

  • The more communication there is, the more difficult it is for communication to succeed.

Because there are inherent challenges to effectively communicating we must invest more time in effectively listening. One way to learn how to communicate more effectively is by practicing certain active listening skills.

Listening Takes Skill With a Touch of Artistry:

Four Skills For Better Communication!

It is perfect practice makes for a perfect performance. Here are four listening skills you can practice.

1.) Listen with your entire body. When listening, look at the person’s face and position your body in a fashion that says to them, “You have my undivided attention.”

2.) Use the listening device, minimal encouragers. These are small statements such as, “uh huh,” “yes,” “that’s right,” or “and then?” Minimal encouragers may also be gestures or facial expressions such as gently nodding at the person speaking or a slight smile which suggests that you enjoy their voice or the information they are sharing.

3.) When you are unsure, or disagree with the speaker, ask a listening question such as, “Did I hear you correctly when you said, __________?” or “let me tell you what I’m hearing you say,__________________. Is that what you mean?”

4.) Finally, turn off the radio, television, running water or whatever other distractions which may be static in the communication channel between you and the person speaking. Simply say, “Hey wait a minute,” or “Hold your thought, I want to hear what you are saying.” Then turn off the distraction and give them your whole undivided attention.

Learning how to effectively listen can turn troubled, floundering relationships into healthier, flourishing relationships. It is important that you both agree to listen and hear each other before you make a decision to act.

If we keep our eyes and ears open-wide we will have fewer occasions to we put our foot in our mouth.

Listen more, your relationships depend on it.



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