How To Be a Good Listener, Just Like a Psychologist.
In last week’s article, we discussed the importance of applying active listening.
Active listening is very important in allowing the speaker to feel heard and understood. Counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists all around the world use this communication skill.
How does one apply active listening? We have discussed that it utilizes the skill of paraphrasing.
Paraphrasing To Be an Effective Listener
When someone says something to you, you paraphrase by formulating what was said to you in your own understanding and words.
The reason why this is important is because it feeds back information to the speaker. The speaker is able to correct you if it isn’t right. And if it is right, then, the speaker is able to elaborate on the matter further.
This allows for a productive conversation to happen.
To paraphrase, use these steps:
- Listen to the main points of the message.
- Main points can include the content or emotion of the speaker.
- Through your own understanding and words, say it to the speaker.
- Keep your paraphrase short and simple.
- The speaker clarifies what’s missing in your paraphrase, or agrees and elaborates further on his/ her message.
- You continue paraphrasing.
Continuing the Paragraph
One powerful way of active listening is also to utilize the technique of “continuing the paragraph”.
Similar to paraphrasing, you will respond to the speaker through your own understanding and words.
However, you are responding by adding to what was said by the speaker a continuation of the story.
Imagine that the speaker had just said something to you in a paragraph. You “continue the paragraph” by adding a sentence or two at the end.
Just like a paragraph, your statement does not sound repetitive, and fits nicely into what was being said earlier.
Speaker – “I was walking down the street and I saw a cat. It was so cute!”
You – “That totally made your day”.
When put into a paragraph, it will sound like: “I was walking down the street and I saw a cat. It was so cute. That totally made my day!“
This technique adds some “spice” to your response as compared to paraphrasing, because it requires a little bit of guess work. At times, you might find that you over or underwhelm the “story”.
But that’s alright!
The whole point of a conversation is for the speaker to know that you are trying to understand what is being said. Continuous clarification of the message is a key part of communication.
By applying paraphrasing and “continuing the paragraph”, you’ll find that you elevate your listening skills by leaps and bounds.
Someone is talking to you, and had just mentioned these statements. Try either paraphrasing or “continuing the paragraph”. A psychologist’s answers are at the bottom for your reference. Don’t look at the answers yet, try it yourself first!
“My therapist just told me that it’s alright to get it wrong when listening to others. It is more important that I take the effort to understand what the speaker is trying to say, and to clarify further through paraphrasing”.
“Psychologists often use paraphrasing to communicate well with their clients. I want to try this out too!”
“It has been such a long day. There were many things to get done. I did talk about it in the therapy session just now, though”.
These Are the Answers
Curious on how a psychologist would respond to those statements? These answers aren’t perfect. There are many varieties that you could come up with. But here goes:
Paraphrase: “Understanding and clarifying what is being said by someone is more important than getting it right”.
Continuing the paragraph: “The depth of communication is just much better this way”.
Paraphrase: “Therapists use paraphrasing often in their line of work”.
Continuing the paragraph: “It can be interesting to know how well this works”.
Paraphrase: “It has been an overwhelming day, but you had an outlet to talk about it in therapy”.
Continuing the paragraph: “Although it was overwhelming, but lots were done today”.
Are you getting the hang of paraphrasing and continuing the paragraph?
Just like any skill, it takes time, intention, and practice to get better at this.
But, it is not impossible!
Start using these skills today and see how it can transform the way you communicate in daily life.
(but, do consider recommending professional services if your friend really, really needs someone to listen and work on his/ her issues).