(from the L.E.T. book)
After a person sends a brief opening feeling messages such as:
• “If it isn’t one thing, it’s another.”
• “How do you expect me to do my job without adequate information?”
• “I cannot stand the way Valerie acts in our meetings!”
• “I feel like quitting sometimes.”
…which clues the listener to the possible existence of a problem, the “helpee” usually will not move into the -problem-¬solving process unless the listener sends an invitation—opens the door for the helpee:
• “Would you like to talk about it?”
• “Can I be of any help with this problem?”
• “I’d be interested to hear how you feel.”
• “Would it help to talk about it?”
• “Sometimes it helps to get it off your chest.”
• “I’d sure like to help if I can.”
• “Tell me about it.”
• “I’ve got the time if you have. Want to talk?”
Generally, people with problems are afraid of imposing them on others—taking up their time, “burdening” them, “unloading” on them, and so on. They usually need some kind of assurance of the willingness of the listener to assume the role of helper. These responses show much more tangibly that the listener is “with” the sender, not only hearing but also taking it in. Good listeners demonstrate close attention.
Passive or Basic Listening
As everyone knows from experience, when you have a problem and find someone who shuts up and listens, you are usually encouraged to keep talking about your problem. The listener’s willingness to keep quiet is usually understood as reasonable evidence of interest and concern. Silence (or passive listening) is a potent tool for getting people to talk about what’s bothering them; and, as anyone knows who has received counseling from a professional counselor, talking to someone who is willing to listen may be just the encouragement a person needs to keep going.
Most people with a problem on their minds need something more from a listener than complete silence. They would like evidence that the listener is not daydreaming or engaged in her own thoughts. They need occasional acknowledgments of their messages, such as:
• Eye contact
• “I understand.”
• “I see.”
While Door Openers, Passive/Basic Listening, and Acknowledgment Responses help people start talking, they do not contribute much to ensuring that impression = expression.
None of the three techniques assures the helpee that the listener actually understands. To be sure that the listener’s impression matches the helpee’s expression, the listener must use a more active kind of listening.
…To be continued in our next Blog.