Effective Listening: Learning to Understand, Not Just Reply

Effective listening is one of the most important tools in life. I heard somewhere along my journey that “to communicate is to listen as listening is to communicate.” While communication is about exchanging thoughts, ideas and feelings, effective listening can help someone to feel less alone or less frustrated.

When we have not been heard or our feelings are misunderstood, we get frustrated.

Carl Rogers, an American psychologist and among one of the founders of the humanistic approach to psychology, said, “We think we listen, but very rarely do we listen with real understanding, true empathy. Yet listening, of this very special kind, is one of the most potent forces for change that I know.”

I believe that to be spot on and for true communication to occur, a level of trust also needs to be present. It has been said that 60% of success in counseling is because of trust and the counselor’s ability to effectively listen and have empathetic presence. I can’t agree more, because when that occurs, change happens.

Listening With the Intent to Understand

Stephen R. Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” said that “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” While the definition of “communicate” is to share or exchange information, I believe the information being received can go south quickly because the person on the receiving end is listening with the intent to reply.

When that happens, we are missing the best part of the other person’s thoughts, ideas and/or feelings.

In the midst of caregiving, it becomes difficult to communicate our needs and to also have our needs heard. Too often, I believe caregivers become the ones needing CARE because in the  ‘busy’ of providing care they forget to share their feelings.

Powerful Tools for Caregivers

At Hope Grows, we offer a six-week Powerful Tools for Caregivers class that helps family caregivers reduce stress, improve self-confidence, communicate feelings better, balance their lives, increase their ability to make tough decisions and locate helpful resources.

Also, at Hope Grows we practice something that Peter Drucker was quoted as saying: “The most important things in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” An Austrian-born American management consultant, educator and author, Drucker was celebrated before he died as the “the man who invented management.”  Perhaps he knew something about the unsaid word and the necessity to communicate effectively around that for success and to provide support.

I think it is time to keep communicating with and for caregivers and join the Hope Grows Iris Movement, so caregivers everywhere can continue to have their voice heard. Through this movement, we can create awareness, show appreciation and provide assistance. Let’s move forward listening with empathy, unconditional positive regard, and genuineness so that caregivers feel supported.  

And above all, when in doubt, give a hug. Hugging is “the most beautiful form of communication that allows the other person to know beyond a doubt that they matter.”  

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