Cooperative listening

Cooperative listening rules

Rule #1   Total attention. Put down your cell phone, turn off the TV, and stop folding the laundry.  If there are children present, go to another part of the house so that you are not interrupted.  This shows the speaker that you are all theirs, that you are concerned, and want to hear what they are saying.  Eye contact demonstrates visually that you are available to them and have your full attention.  Nod your head from time to time or say “yes” or “uh-huh” to let them know you are still with them.

Clear your head of all thoughts and concentrate on what your partner says.  This is not a time to judge, or predict what s/he will say next in your head. Don’t be afraid the conversation will escalate and mentally withdraw; let go of your own ideas and presuppositions.  This isn’t about you. Most of the time it is not.

This one act of giving your partner your complete attention, in itself can dissipate fights immediately.

Rule #2   Ask questions. Attempt to clarify, Saying things like “What did you do after that happened?” or “Tell me more”.  Show your partner that you are tracking the conversation and are truly interested.

Rule #3   Empathize. These statements acknowledge and identify the feelings your partner is expressing, such as “I can see you are very angry about what happened” or “That must feel overwhelming for you” or “I can appreciate why you feel that way”.  Put yourself in your partner’s shoes.  This does not mean you are agreeing with them, you owe them the respect of trying to see their side.  Empathizing lets them know you are trying to do so.

Rule #4   Summarize. Repeat what your partner has said in your own words.  This shows your partner that you have truly listened.  It gives them the opportunity to correct or confirm what you have heard, and correct you if you have miss a point.  Do not use this time to state your position or point of view.  It is not the time to agree or disagree with anything the speaker has said.  It is a time to state your partner’s frame of reference (观点,理论), not yours.

Cooperative listening

The common misconception is that if I practice cooperative listening I am agreeing with what the speaker is saying.  Nothing could be farther from the truth (没有什么比这更脱离事实).  You are allowing them to state their point of view with your full attention and understanding.

Often people don’t accurately hear what the other is saying or is interpreting it in their own way.  Intense feelings (强烈的感情), anger or hurt can block us from hearing much at all.  When one speaks the other doesn’t listen because they are doing one or more of the following things:

1. They are forming their own response while the other is speaking.  If you’re thinking about what you’re going to say next, how well can you be listening?

2.  Because you both know each other so well and have probably heard the conversation before, you are finishing your partner’s sentences, either in your head, or our loud (which means you are interrupting). Can you really be listening?

3. You feel you are so right and your partner is so wrong that you just shut down, not really taking in what the other is saying.

4. You are afraid that the conversation will turn sour (令人失望) and escalate into an argument so you sit there hoping it will be over soon.  Are you listening?

By using listening skills you are accomplishing three things. Here are the benefits for you as the listener.

1. You are building trust. A partner that trusts you will appreciate you more.

2. You are showing your partner that you love and respect them.

3. Cooperative listening gives you the opportunity to obtain important information.  You will pick up things that you may have missed before.  The real message sometimes lurks (潜伏, 埋伏, 潜在) behind what is coming out of the speaker’s mouth.

4. Listening gains a true understanding of your partner’s needs at that moment.

5.  When it is your turn to do the talking, you have created a more open path for your partner to listen when it is your turn to speak.

6. It allows your partner to finally express his or her feelings without feeling attacked or criticized.

7. You are validating your partner.

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