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To What, Exactly, Are We Reacting?

1 Dec

As a former Communications major in college (and now as a therapist), my entire life has centered around how and why we speak to each other. So, it’s always a joyous part of my work when I can spend time with my clients talking about communication.

One of the most important skills I hope to impart has to do with reflective listening – the act of validating what the other person has said. So, for example, if one person complains “you don’t pay enough attention to me,” the other repeats what he heard…”so, I hear you saying I don’t pay enough attention to you.”

Courtesy: Kathy Kimpel link to license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

Courtesy: Kathy Kimpel
link to license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

It may not sound like a difficult task, but it’s an important one. Why? Because we often react NOT to what the other person is saying. Instead, we react to what we THINK the other person is saying. If we repeat and validate the other person’s remarks, however, it’s less likely there will be a “loss in translation.”

When it comes to healthy conflict resolution, then, it’s essential we hear what the other person is really saying – not our INTERPRETATION of what we think they’re saying.

So, try this next time you’re in the midst of a disagreement. Repeat what you think they’re saying, and then ask if you’re right. Not only will you pleasantly surprise the other person, but you just may find the argument de-escalates much more easily and much quicker than before.

Britt

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