Keys To Stress Mastery: Are You A Good Listener? (Part 3)

by Doc Orman, M.D.

listeningThis week and next, in order to help you advance your stress mastery skills, I’ve chosen the topic of listening to explore with you.

In this series of six consecutive blog posts, I’ll be discussing seven key aspects of listening that deserve closer attention. 

In my first post in this series, I covered the first two of these keys:

KEY #1:  Listening Is Not A Passive Activity!

KEY #2:  Listen For Unspoken Fears/Concerns/Moods/Aspirations

In the second post, I covered:

KEY #3:  Good Listening Requires Great Wisdom

Today, I want to discuss another important aspect of good listening…

KEY #4:  Listen To Others With Respect And Validation

One of the biggest secrets to becoming an excellent listener is to take on the job of always finding something to respect or validate in what others are saying. This is a very challenging goal you should consider taking on.  But very few people recognize the importance of this skill and make it a top priority.

Most of the time when we’re listening to others, we look for faults or weaknesses in what the other person says.  We often end up disagreeing (either vocally or silently) with the other person’s opinions, feelings, attitudes, or points of views.  But nobody likes to have others disagree with them.  We all want people to agree with our personal points of view, or at least we want our thoughts and feelings to be respected and considered equally valid as anyone else’s.  Even if our opinions or attitudes are based on erroneous reasoning, we still want people to appreciate that our ideas and feelings have great personal meaning for us. 

If you don’t make people feel that you respect their points of view, they won’t feel “understood” and will consider you a bad listener.

How do you develop this ability to listen with respect?  Well, first we’ve got to realize that most people aren’t going to think, feel, and reason just like we do.  They’re going to do things their own way, and they don’t really care about what we think is right.

When I listen to others, I frequently have to force myself to remember this basic truth about life.

I have to consciously choose to look for something meaningful and worthwhile in whatever someone is saying, no matter how blatantly wrong it may initially appear to me. And you know what?  If you look hard enough for these hidden kernels of merit or validity in what others are saying, you will almost always find them lurking there somewhere.

It also helps to realize when you own style of thinking and reasoning is fundamentally different from the people you are interacting with.  For example, parents often make the mistake of listening and communicating with their kids as if they were “little adults.” 

But kids don’t think, feel and reason like adults.  Their thought processes and reasoning processes are very different.  Kids don’t respond to the same types of motivators we do.  They don’t relate to future goals and payoffs as we do.  And they don’t always want to be educated or enlightened, even though we might value such opportunities.  If you don’t remind yourself of these essential differences—which are very, very easy to forget—you won’t be able to communicate with children successfully.  (Next time you run into a first grade or second grade teacher at a party, take a few moments to talk with them about this subject—they live this stuff every day!)

Another example of this key point is the problems that arise when men and women communicate with each other as if their thinking and communication styles are (or should be) exactly the same. The truth about men and women, however, is that when it comes to communication styles and needs they are very, very different.  For example, men are brought up in our culture to listen in certain habitual ways. They listen to problems from the standpoint of identifying a verbalizing effective solutions as quickly as possible. Women, on the other hand, also are interested in solutions, but they are much more prone to empathize with the speaker’s internal feelings and to spend much more time “talking about” the problem before diving into solutions. 

This crucial difference between the speaking and listening styles of men and women has been the subject of several popular best-selling books.  The two best I’ve seen are “You Just Don’t Understand” by Deborah Tannen (William Morrow, 1990) and “Men Are From Mars…Women Are From Venus” by John Gray (Harper Collins, 1992).  Both books say exactly the same things, but John Gray’s book does it a little better and in a much more entertaining fashion.

Well, that’s it for this week.  We’ll cover the last three keys to good listening in my three blog posts next week.

NOTE: This six-part series of consecutive blog posts contains excerpts from a newsletter article I wrote and published back in January, 1995 titled: “7 Keys To Listening That Will Win You Friends, Improve Your Marriage, Boost Your Profits, And Make People Follow You Anywhere!”

For a full list of all of my Kindle books about stress, click on this link:



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