“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply”
-Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
Formulating Your Reply
In my couples’ seminar I teach several types of structured conversations that couples can use to slow down their communication and really hear each other. One of them is called a ‘learning conversation,’ the point of which is to ensure that what is being said is clearly heard. As part of that, I ask the listener to recap what they heard the speaker say in the words that were spoken, plus say what they heard between the lines.
Much of communication happens between the lines – the assumptions we make, and the filters we hear our partner’s ideas through. So, verbalizing the ‘between the lines’ assumptions can really help couples understand why they are miscommunicating.
But another aspect of why this conversational style is so interesting is that it forces you to stop listening in order to formulate a response. Your only job as listener in a learning conversation is to accurately hear what the speaker is trying to tell you.
It’s harder to do than you might think! Most of us listen as Covey suggests – so we can reply.
Try this experiment with your partner:
One person, as speaker, says 4-5 sentences about an emotional idea that is important to them
The other partner, the listener, recaps in his/her own words what they heard in words, plus what they heard between the lines
The speaker determines – is that what I was trying to say? If so, great! If not, what did the listener miss?
Go back and forth until the communication of the speaker is clearly understood…then change roles.
Listening in order to hear is an important skill that can be practiced and honed.
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