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Practicing Active Listening

Active listening may seem redundant because listening requires your active attention. However, many people who are engaging in a conversation are not practicing the technique of active listening. Active listening requires concentration on what the other person is saying, not just merely hearing what’s being said. Active listening requires your full attention. If you aren’t giving your full attention to the person you’re speaking with, you aren’t actively listening to them. Part of active listening is showing interest in what the other person is saying. This can be achieved by giving both verbal and non-verbal cues, such as keeping eye contact, nodding your head, and encouraging the other person to continue speaking. Many people with depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders often have trouble with interpersonal relationship skills. By employing active listening, you will be increasing your interpersonal effectiveness skills and furthering your relationships. 

The Gottman Institute focuses on helping couples and families. Dr. John Gotman and Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman spent nearly forty years researching and studying marriages and relationships to repair the troubled ones and strengthen the happy ones (The Gottman Institute). Dr. James Gottman encourages active listening and gives these ten key skills to practice active listening:

  1. Focus on being interested, not interesting.
  2. Start by asking questions.
  3. Look for commonalities.
  4. Tune in with all your attention.
  5. Communicate you are listening with a nod/sound.
  6. Paraphrase what the speaker says.
  7. Validate the speaker’s emotions.
  8. Maintain eye contact.
  9. Let go of your own agenda.
  10. Turn off the TV.

These cues are all important to take into account when attempting to participate in active listening. Being engaged is a key to active listening. This is why it’s important to ask questions (2), communicate back with the speaker (5), and maintain eye contact (8). Focusing on the other person and not on how you will respond is critical. If you are already thinking about how you will respond, you aren’t paying attention to what the person is saying. Avoiding distractions is also significant, which is why turning off the TV (10) or any other disturbances are important. If things are heating up in the conversation, it’s crucial to remember not to get defensive. As tensions rise, don’t forget these ten key skills of active listening. 

Villa Tranquil Recovery is committed to helping our patients and their families as they recover. We have groups in our Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) that focus on healthy communication and relationship issues. Call us today at 214-799-3080 for more information about what we can do for you.