Responses for Better Listening Skills

Would you like to improve your listening and conversation skills?
Try working in a response or two starting with the following:

  • What I hear you saying is…
  • Sounds like….
  • You’re feeling….
  • You think…
  • From your perspective…..
  • What I’m hearing is that your saying...
  • It sounds like you value…
  • Could this be….
  • By that you mean…
  • It sounds like on one hand you feel_____ because you think______ and
    on the other hand you feel_______ because you think________.

Good listening is like data collecting. One lets go of bias and preconceptions, and refrain from making judgements and opinions. Responding, is clarifying and confirming  he/she is listening to what someone is saying to him.

To probe further into another is saying, try one of the following:

I’m wondering…

  • what you mean by…
  • what that means to you.
  • what have you thought of doing…
  • What have you tried before?
  • How do you usually make this kind of decision?
  • What would you like to see happen?
  • What do you think the consequences would be?
  • what scares you about…

Some years ago I took a class in “Active and Reflective Listening” for  volunteer work I was doing at the time. I use those skills, including the statements above  all the time, today — they are part of my way of conversing. I am a much better listener today.
If  use some of these in your conversations and  you can if you can  be a better listener.


reflective listening for improved communication

If  one wishes to be a good observer of facts ,one withholds judgments,  interferes as little as possible with data, and summarizes what he observes. One must do the same when he or she is listening to what others are saying. One can do this with “Reflective Listening“.

the purpose of  “Reflective  Listening” is to :

  • listen  fully, clarify understand what another person saying.
  • build trust and  a repore with other people.
  • Improve communication
  • Increase  personal  empathy and relatedness

Active Reflective listening:

  1. Use Good Listening Skills.
  2. Withhold judgment while listening
  3. Listen Closely To What is being said, and How something is said.
  4. Pay attention to nonverbal cues: gestures, voice inflections.
  5. Respond to What you hear, and Nothing else.
    • Reflect and Listen
    • Affirm Feeling and Values when express
    • Explore and Encourage a speaker to share
    • Avoid listening “Road blocks “
  6. Summarize
  7. Continue to listen.

Reflecting and Listening

Reflecting tells the person who you are listening to that you understand them, and allows you to passively challenge statements for clarity.

  • I hear you saying………..
  • Sounds like……………….
  • You believe………………….
  • you are confident that….
  • Could it be that……
  • You think that…….
  • Correct me if I, Wrong , but i hear……….
  • From your perspective…………
  • I’m picking up………..
  • The part I understand is…..
  • It Seems as though…………
  • By that you mean…..

Statements, that start like this are known as “Tentafiers” and they avoid introducing any opinion, advice, or talk of your experience. Remember: this is about  better listening  and listening objectively.

Speaker: Its my brother. He borrowed th car again without asking.  He never shows up on time.  Never helps me when I ask for his help. and now he is asking to borrow money again.

Listener: “It sounds to me, that you believe your brother is taking advantage of you”..

Affirming Feeling and Values

Sometimes people talk to get things “off their chest”, or the just need someone to talk to. They may not notice how they are feeling as they talk. Pointing out feelings and values when you here them, challenges the speaker to experience them, more directly as they communicate.
It also tells the speaker “Hey! I know how you Feel” and “I want to know how you are feeling”.

  • You are Feeling……..
  • You Feel……..
  • I hear you saying that,   part of you feels….. and part of you feels….
  • It Sounds  like you really value……

Its  helpful to have  Strong “Emotional Grammar” and Empathy in answering these Tentafiers.
The good news is mastering  Listening helps to improve ones Emotional Grammar and Empathy.
Some Feeling Words:
You are Feeling…….

Angry ,  Unsure ,  Excited ,  Apprehensive ,  Joyful ,  Happy
Suspicious ,  Sad ,  Curious ,  Helpless ,  Cheated ,  Confident ,
Overloaded ,  Stressed, abandoned , Conflicted  , In-love ,  disrespected …

(A   downloadable list of Feeling words can be found  {click Here})

Speaker:“I just got a raise at work and my vacation plans were approved!  I made record time on my drive home! I’m on a roll!

listener: “you’re feeling ecstatic!”

Explore and Encourage.

One doesn’t want to intrude on a speaker when he/she is active – reflectively listening, but we may want to encourage the speaker to clarify what they or saying or talk more specifically about a subject.

I am Wondering….

  • ….what that means to you.
  • ….How you’re feelings about…..

Questions that encourage clarification and specification, that don’t lead the speakers to conclusions , are called “Opened ended  questions“.

  • Can you Tell me more about…?
  • What does that mean to you?
  • What would you like to see happen?
  • What are some of your Options?
  • Could you give me some examples?
  • How did you come to this conclusion?
  • What worked before?
  • Have you felt this way before?
  • Which concern seems most important right now?

It is Recommended that “Open ended Questions” are be used sparingly after reflecting and listening for a while.

Listening “Road Blocks”

Road blocks are statements one tries to avoid as they are nonconstructive to listening.One  don’t wish to interject our opinions, experiences, and advice  while listening.
I will cover road-blocks in the next post.


* ” I’d like to take a moment to summarize so i am clear about…

  • your concerns…”
  • what your feeling…..”
  • what you’ve told me….”

* ” Lets recap the Ground we covered.”

Summarizing is a good way to  express that you’ve been attentive in listening and that you clearly understand the major points the speaker expressed.

In Conclusion

Active Reflective Listening was developed  from the work of Carl Rogers Client Centered Therapy. Reflective Listening is  used professionally by  Law enforcement, EMT, who need to listen to people for facts quickly, business people with clients, etc. It can be use personally to improve oneself and relatedness to friends and family.
After all, most people like “Good Listeners”.

shocking news

I have recently contact old friends I haven’t seen in years.. one or two decades in some cases,through a Internet Social Network.
I have had  “baggage” and conflicts in the past —estranging most of my high school friendships and the onset of severe health problems in my late twenties.

I have been startled by some of the reactions I have received when I reached out to people in my past: silence, disbelief , hostility and avoidance – I have  had all these reactions recently.

I don’t know for sure, but I believe that friends in the past might have these the expectations:

  • That I was to arrogant to stay in contact with my old friends
  • That I would have my masters in Astronomy today
  • That “bad” things never happen to good people.
  • That they have always been able to trust who they thought were their friends were in the past.
  • That success is measured in professional and academic achievement only
  • That I am no longer alive.

I believe now that: for some of my old friends , (whom have these expectations), my contact has been too shocking for some to handle… so immediately.
I recently read blog post:
Relationary: Induction, Deduction and the Eight States of Change
a post pertaining to grief and shocking news, and Its given me some perspective on my recent  experience
My belief has always been that all crisis between people  that are resolvable, involve  immediate dialogue and communication. What I am learning is that people need time.

Receiving  stunning  news about someone…  the shock of unknown circumstances of  past events… the shattering of what one believes about  there personal judgment…
—Well, it takes a lot of time for people to resolve each emotional stage of handling shocking  news.
another observation from ‘s post:

Getting Stuck

A common problem with the above cycle is that people get stuck in one phase. Thus a person may become stuck in denial, never moving on from the position of not accepting the inevitable future. When it happens, they still keep on denying it, such as the person who has lost their job still going into the city only to sit on a park bench all day.

What this means is that many  past relationships maybe un-mendable, because some people are unable to come to terms with the stages of handling shocking news. Or that they are to busy with their own lives today to handle issues long in the past.

In any case: all personal relationships are in a constant change, present and rekindled from the past.
I just need to remember to be patient, give people time, and keep the lines of communication open, allow people to come to terms… on their own terms.

two and a half men:my yin and Yang

My favorite comedy on Televison is “Two and a half men”. and I think the show is hilarious and brilliant.
It basically re hashes the old “odd couple theme” between to brothers, Charlie (played Chalie Sheen) and Alan (played by Jon Cryer)

Basically the show is a hilarious Satire on American Male, Each brother represents the polar extreme in male personalities pertaining to sex.

Charlie represents virile “bad boy”, the masculine yang, confident, womanizing and ruthless. These guys are always held in contempt for their misogyny, yet in high regard for their intensity.

Alan represents the “nice guy”. sensitive, smart, perceptive they are guys with a feminine Yin These guys are held high regard for their sense of responsibly, attentiveness, but held in contempt for their hidden lack of esteem.

Most young mainstream males in America have traits of both of this “bad boy”/”nice guy” dynamic. And usually they are pigeon holed as one or the other.

( a little therapy session for the two bros)

Somehow, from Puberty on up, I managed to be Both, at the polar extremes. I was extremely confident, intense, nasty and firey and competitive. At the same time extremely sensitive, perceptive, with the strange belief that I should treat a lady like a lady.

You would think I would be considered well rounded. Nope. I felt guilty for both sides of me, my Yin and Yang traits were always in conflict, I sent mixed singles to everyone and every girl, through my mid twenties.

Of course no one would clue me in, my guy friends (the bastards) didn’t wish to see me take control of my “bad boy side”. Women (succubus) didnt want to allow me to gravitate toward my “nice guy” tendencies. So no one said anything!
I could of use a show like Two and a Half men, fifteen years ago.

Today I have learned to allowed my masculine and feminine traits to flow with one and other. not so much in conflict. With gained awareness, maturity, and the letting go of many of my self judgements I am much better at allow my personality trades flow in integrated fashion. And having a neurotic sense of humor sure helps.

with the confidence I gravitate to my natural masculine side,

I love two and a half man, It is a hilarious send up of the war inside the American male.