Monthly Archives: February 2014

Active Listening – Pitfalls to Avoid

Pitfalls to Avoid

Repetition in responses – Constantly using the same response can give the impression you are on autopilot. You should also avoid your responses being statements, such as, “You’re saying …” or “You feel …” It is better to respond with questions.

Pretending to understand – It is quite possible when listening to an emotional person to get a little lost. Emotions can muddle our thoughts and words. If you get lost, speak up and ask for clarification or you may spend a great deal of time operating in ignorance or on a misconception.

Trying too hard – As much as you may want to help, and feel that you have understood every nuance of the issue, resist the temptation to offer explanations that go beyond your knowledge base or beyond the facts that are definitely known. Amateur psychologists are a dime a dozen.

Not trying hard enough – Make sure to gauge the speaker’s emotions as best you can. Missing key emotions or devaluing them may cause the speaker to clam up in frustration.

Rambling on – Keep your responses short. Remember you should be listening more than talking. Don’t mistake long-windedness for helpfulness.

Missing non-verbal messages – This is a huge mistake, for reasons already stated.

Conclusion To Active Listening

Anyone interested in improving their communication skills should understand how active listening differs from the listening they normally practice.

Remember that there are two types of listening: active listening and not really listening. Active listening is not some super-listening skill beyond the reach of mere mortals; it is a skill anyone can master if they are willing to accept their current inadequacies and make the effort required.

Active listening is also not just a skill that belongs in a business or other professional environment; it is useful for anyone who seeks to improve the quality of their communication with other people. Only when you begin to actively listen will you realize just how much you were missing previously.

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Self Made Man Through Self Control

I Became A Self Made Man Through Self Control. This was a mixed message I got as a child. Everyone preached you need to make your own destiny. Yet they molded you to walk, dress and act like everyone else

Self Made Man

When being taught self-control, I always seen how it was in the best interest of the person who was teaching me self-control. It was not to my benefit. As there was nothing to be learned through the process. This is the way I seen it, because no one teaching me self control spent any time with me explaining the benefits. Without direction I looked at life through my eyes using the information I had. This information was that the people teaching me self-control had an easier life at my expense. Therefore I resisted any authority.
When I was in 10th grade my math teacher told me he really could use me as a tutor. I wanted to be a tutor. He said that the rest of the teachers would only let me be a tutor if I did my homework in all my classes. I would not present a good image of a tutor the way I was. I just looked at him an said “I guess you really do not want me as a tutor”. Part of me died that day. I gave up something I wanted so that they did not have control of me. Today I understand that I was a self-made man all along and these decisions are what make a self-made man, good or bad.

They presented it as a case of lack of self-control on my part. That I would be teaching others to not do homework, instead of teaching math.
Today I know my strengths and weaknesses. I do not let emotions make my decisions, like I did in 10th grade and most of my life. Most people around me tell me how it is in my best interest to exercise self control. While it is really their interests they are talking about. I need to know the difference.
Personal self-control separates you from the normal way of thinking. This is essential in becoming a self-made man. Self control is not denying who you are. It is not giving control of my life to others. Personal self-control frees me to live my life as I choose and accomplish all the goals I set for myself.

Reflective Listening – Part 2

Reflective Listening – Part 2

Reflective listening is concerned with responding, which underpins all effective communication. It is not about leading the speaker in a direction chosen by the listener because the listener believes this to be the best course of action based on their own frame of reference. The responsive listener addresses those matters that the speaker is currently discussing.

However, the reflective listener must evaluate not just the words spoken, but all that the speaker is conveying through their body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions. All this will provide the best interpretation of the speaker’s true emotional state. When a person feels that they are understood at an emotional level, that’s the moment when they feel they are truly understood.

Always remember that the emotion you read in a person’s expression may be completely at odds with the content of their spoken message. Content refers to the ideas, reasons, theories, assumptions, and descriptions that are expressed verbally by the speaker. Since many people do not state their emotions explicitly within such content, the listener will need to respond to the implicit emotional tone. A simple example would be if you asked how a friend was doing, and they responded in a monotone and with pain in their eyes: “I’m doing great”. Which message would you take as real?

The reflective listener would respond to the evident sadness and distress in their friend. This is a crucial skill to master: the ability and willingness to confront negative emotions and deal with them constructively. This may involve the listener in a long conversation, where a simple “Don’t worry!” would not. However, unless those underlying negative emotions are dealt with, then although the initial listening may have been actively performed, it can still be ruined by a lack of reflection.

This does not mean that assumptions should be made; this is responding from your own frame of reference. You know that the last time you looked so miserable, something terrible had happened, so you assume that must be the case now. The friend in question may indeed be doing great; they may just have gone over on their ankle and be in a little pain at that precise moment. The only way to establish the truth would be to respond with a gentle challenge: “Are you sure you’re feeling all right? You look like you’re suffering.”

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Reflective Listening – Part 1

Reflective Listening – Part 1

Reflective listening refers to the final point made above, and it deserves a separate chapter because it concerns how the listener deals with what they have heard. This is what makes or breaks the art of communication.

The four components of active listening – acceptance, empathy, honesty and specifics – all work towards creating reflective responses in the listener.

The main principles of reflective listening are:

  • Listen more than you talk.
  • Deal with personal specifics, not impersonal generalities.
  • Decipher the feelings behind the words, to create a better understanding of the issues.
  • Restate and clarify what you have heard.
  • Understand the speaker’s frame of reference and avoid responding from your own frame of reference. (Frame of reference means the views a person has on an issue based on their own subjective experience of it.)
  • Respond with acceptance and empathy, not coldly or with fake concern.

Dealing with personal specifics means that the listener chooses to explore the effects on the speaker. If someone is worried that they may be about to lose their job, the focus should be firstly on that person’s fears, not on the current state of the job market. The speaker will no doubt have already researched the facts and figures and probabilities, and will have heard a hundred times from well-meaning individuals that their job may not be lost. What is required in this case, and what reflective listening provides, is the chance to let the concerned person express their fears to another human being. This is often the primary reason for talking.

When the listener responds on a personal level, the conversation remains at the level the speaker intended. This allows them to further explore their feelings, improve their understanding of the situation, and perhaps attain a healthier attitude. There is no point in the listener saying: “Don’t worry, I’m sure it won’t happen.”

This is an empty platitude that reveals the listener has not even slightly grasped the reason the speaker opened up. Telling a worried person not to worry is tantamount to ending the conversation there and then. It is dismissive of the real problem, which is the speaker’s emotional reaction to the situation. This is particularly damaging when it has been such a huge step to reveal those emotions in the first place.

 

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My Annual Trip To Regret City

I had not really planned on taking a trip this time of year, and yet I found myself packing rather hurriedly. This trip was going to be unpleasant and I knew in advance that no real good would come of it. I’m talking about my annual “Guilt Trip.”

I got tickets to fly there on Wish I Had airlines. It was an extremely short flight. I got my baggage, which I could not check. I chose to carry it myself all the way. It was weighted down with a thousand memories of what might have been. No one greeted me as I entered the terminal to the Regret City International Airport. I say international because people from all over the world come to this small town.

As I checked into the Last Resort Hotel, I noticed that they would be hosting the year’s most important event, the Annual Pity Party. I wasn’t going to miss that great social occasion. Many of the towns leading citizens would be there.

First, there would be the Done family, you know, Should Have, Would Have and Could Have. Then came the I Had family. You probably know ol’ Wish and his clan. Of course, the Opportunities would be present, Missed and Lost. The biggest family would be the Yesterday’s. There are far too many of them to count, but each one would have a very sad story to share.

Then Shattered Dreams would surely make and appearance. And It’s Their Fault would regale us with stories (excuses) about how things had failed in his life, and each story would be loudly applauded by Don’t Blame Me and I Couldn’t Help It.

Well, to make a long story short, I went to this depressing party knowing that there would be no real benefit in doing so. And, as usual, I became very depressed. But as I thought about all of the stories of failures brought back from the past, it occurred to me that all of this trip and subsequent “pity party” could be cancelled by ME! I started to truly realize that I did not have to be there. I didn’t have to be depressed. One thing kept going through my mind, I CAN’T CHANGE YESTERDAY, BUT I DO HAVE THE POWER TO MAKE TODAY A WONDERFUL DAY. I can be happy, joyous, fulfilled, encouraged, as well as encouraging.

Knowing this, I left the City of Regret immediately and left no forwarding address. Am I sorry for mistakes I’ve made in the past? YES! But there is no physical way to undo them.

So, if you’re planning a trip back to the City of Regret, please cancel all your reservations now. Instead, take a trip to a place called, Starting Again. I liked it so much that I have now taken up permanent residence there. My neighbors, the I Forgive Myselfs and the New Starts are so very helpful. By the way, you don’t have to carry around heavy baggage, because the load is lifted from your shoulders upon arrival. God bless you in finding this great town. If you can find it — it’s in your own heart — please look me up. I live on I Can Do It street.

I came across this story yesterday. I do not know the author, otherwise I would give him the credit.

Stradivarius And My Gratitude

Saying “Thank You” to the person who has helped you is so important. This poem about Stradivarius by George Eliot shows how important the other person is our lives.

When any master holds,
‘Twixt chin and hand a violin of mine,
He will be glad that Stradivari lived,
Made violins, and made them of the best.
The masters only know whose work is good;
Then they will choose mine, and while God gives them skill
I give them instruments to play upon,
God choosing me to help them.

There is always someone there to help me. God sent, Yes. I have learned that they will not stay there without a Thank You from me. I wonder how far I would be if I had thanked more people and not taken them for granted.

If Stradivarius had decided to make toys instead of violins, we would never be able to enjoy that gift.  Maybe there would never be another with that talent. Maybe there would not be another with that talent for a thousand years. So the same is in my life. The person in my life my be the only one that will be sent with that particular talent. If another will be sent, when? In time? Am I willing to risk the loss?

I can thank God for the people in my life, but if I do not thank them personally the chances are good they will move on to where they are appreciated. The parable of the Talents. The man that did not use the talents that were given to him, they were taken away and given to the one who did. The same will happen to the people that are sent into my life to bless me. If I do not make use of them and show my gratitude to them they will leave.

Plenty of studies have been done to back this up. People do not stay at a job because of money. They stay because they know they are appreciated and because they have a chance to use the gifts they have.

Did you ever say to yourself “I had that idea. Look what that lucky person did with the idea.” Someone was put into your life to put that idea to work. You did not use the talent that was given to you. The idea was given to you first. You buried it and it was taken from you and given to someone else. If you are given an idea, the way to put it to use is also given to you. Keep your eyes open. Tell the people in your life that are helping you, that you are grateful for what they are doing for you.

Thoughts By Duffy

A good friend on mine started a blog thoughtsbyduffy.com. The theme of the blog is to put a positive twist on the negative beliefs we have.

Joe uses his sense of humor to bring his point across. Here is an example.

Lying / Dishonesty

Ok Let’s get out there bend and stretch the truth, exaggerate, misrepresent the facts, make up a real juicy lie. Let’s rob the truth and trust from those who are willing to believe us. It is said if we tell ourselves a lie long enough, we ourselves will believe it ! Better check that one with the one in the mirror, nah, who needs to reflect on details. Should the truth insist on coming out, hesitate get creative flex it. Increase the stress of having to remember and keep track of all this untruth !

He brings his point across with a touch of sarcasm. His post will help you be a better person, when you need it most. Tired, hungry, lonely, or fustrated and you have a short fuse at this moment in time. His post may come to you and help you laugh at yourself and diffuse the tension.

Make your life easier and give your self a laugh. Visit his blog and subscribe.

Improving Your Active Listening Skills – Part 3

Improving Your Active Listening Skills – Part 3

Avoid “me” stories – These happen when a speaker says something that triggers a memory of something similar in your own experience. Then you are just waiting for them to shut up so you can share. This can be disastrous for communication because as soon as the speaker ends their sentence, you jump in and take over. “Me” stories normally begin with “Yeah, that’s just like me …” Phrased in such a way, the listener has justified their interjection by linking their circumstances with the speaker’s. However, such stories are little more than an opportunity to talk about your favorite subject: yourself. They may also end up taking the conversation so far off-topic that the original intent  is lost. Keep your stories to yourself, unless the speaker specifically asks if you have experienced a similar situation because they genuinely want to know how you handled it.

Don’t be scared of silence – Active listening requires that you take time to absorb what you have heard, analyze it, and then respond. Commenting instantly may give the impression that you have been formulating your response when you should have been listening. You may also be coming in too early. The speaker may only have paused to clarify their thoughts before speaking again, and may need that silence to think. Be assured that if they do want you to speak, they will let you know. They may ask: “What do you think?” or “What would you do?”

Practice emotional intelligence – This is all about being aware of your emotions and opinions. As much as your emotions can aid active listening by creating empathy, they can also hamper communication if they cause you to disagree with the speaker. This can clearly produce negative results if you start an argument, but it can also be detrimental even if you keep your counsel and say nothing. Having negative thoughts about what you are being told will work against your ability to actively listen, and you will almost certainly transmit this to the speaker in your body language. You can combat this problem by being more emotionally intelligent. This means accepting that the feelings you have could, if you let them, affect your listening abilities, and then deciding to keep them under wraps, at least until the speaker has said all they want to say.

Take notes – Although this may make you appear like a psychiatrist, jotting down a few key words can really help. This counters the need to interrupt for fear of forgetting, and provides a reference for once the speaker has finished so that you know you will be able to address the pertinent issues. Some people may want to speak at length without interruptions, and even the most attentive and active listener will then struggle to recall all the details they wanted to comment on. This tactic obviously has more relevance in formal and business situations. It might be policy to ask whether the speaker minds you scribbling a little as they speak, and to explain the purpose of doing so.

Check your understanding – This is a good way to focus your thoughts on listening, to demonstrate to the speaker that you really are listening, to help clarify the listener’s thoughts, and to make sure that you genuinely do understand. This is a matter of asking clarification questions when appropriate, and may involve restating part of what you have heard. You may start off with: “So I am right in thinking …” or “Let me just clarify …” or “So are you saying …”

If you want to purchase the e-book for $3.50 Click Here