Monday, October 24, 2011

Listening is problem-solving help says Peter Bregman, PT blogger

 I posted last month about the effectiveness  of problem-solving in families and also TAPPS, talking out loud to yourself as a useful way to improve your problem-solving abilities. http://intelligentwomenonly.blogspot.com/2011/09/problem-solve-out-loud-and-alone-even.html

Here's an interesting post from a Psychology Today blogger about listening as an aid to problem-solving for yourself and the other person. If you're active listening, which encourages others to tell you more, you're subtly allowing them to talk out loud about their problem. This might be helpful to all: an opportunity for the person you're hearing to elaborate and hear their own thoughts about their thinking. And it helps you as the listener to avoid escalation of a problem, particularly if it involves you!

I'm all for the listening approach. When I listen intently, the conversation always goes better, even if it's not a problem situation. BUT I acknowledge that I'm often too impatient to keep on facilitating the other person's conversation without imposing my thoughts. Then I've got trouble!

Here's the link to the whole article plus a quote from it.


  1. "Actually listen. And only listen. That means don't multitask. I'm not just talking about doing email, surfing the web, or creating a grocery list. Thinking about what you're going to say next counts as multitasking. Simply focus on what the other person is saying.
  2. Repeat back. This feels a little silly at first but works magic. If someone says she is angry about the decision you just made, you can say "you're angry about the decision I just made." I know, I know, she just said that. But it shows you're listening and it communicates to the other person that she's been heard. If you don't have the courage to try it with an adult, try it with a child. You'll see what a difference it makes and it will embolden you to try it with a colleague or your spouse.
  3. Ask questions. Explore the other person's thoughts and feelings more deeply. And "You don't really believe that, do you?" does not count as a question. You are not using the Socratic method to prove your point; you are trying to better understand what's going on so you can better understand your partner in this conversation.
Really listening can feel risky, which seems strange because listening doesn't materially change anything. But sometimes you'll hear things that are hard to hear.
Remember that listening is not the same thing as agreeing. And it will never force you to take any particular action. If anything, it will reduce the intensity of people's insistence that you take a specific action. Because in many cases what they're looking for is proof that you've heard them. So if they feel you've really heard them, their need for action diminishes.
As Eleanor  [blogger's wife] spoke, I noticed my own resistance to various things she was saying. There's no question that it's hard to really listen. But once I relaxed into it, I heard her in a much deeper way. That made her feel better. Call me co-dependent, but it made me feel better too.
It turns out that sometimes, just listening is problem-solving."
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