Paraphrasing – Whenever your partner says something important to you, you then state in your own words what you think your partner has just said and how they may be feeling. You can preface your paraphrase with lead-ins such as “What I hear you saying is that . . . In other words . . . Let me get this straight . . . So you felt that . . . If I understand you correctly . . . Do you mean . . . Would you say that . . .”
If you consistently paraphrase, you will:
Prevent most listening blocks.
Correct false assumptions and misinterpretations on the spot.
Give the other person the priceless gift of being heard and acknowledged.
Keep angry feelings from escalating.
Help yourself remember what was said.
Clarifying – Paraphrasing leads naturally to clarifying. You tell the other person what you thought you heard, find out your were wrong, and start asking questions to clarify. In phrasing your questions, remember that you intention is to understand, enjoy, learn, or help. Your intention must not be to interrogate, to pressure for your own point of view, to blame, to belittle, or to manipulate in any way.
Asking questions will give you a broader picture that includes more specific details, finer shades of feeling, and greater understanding of the other person’s point of view. Ask questions like “How did you feel about that?” and “What were you thinking then?”
Feedback – Feedback comes after you have paraphrased what the other person has said and asked questions to clarify your understanding. Then you “feed back” your own reactions. You calmly relate, without judgment, you own thoughts, feelings, opinions, desires and so on. Good feedback is immediate, honest and supportive.
Listening With Your Body – Your body can encourage good communication by conveying that you’re listening. Try to implement the following:
Maintain eye contact.
Move closer or lean slightly forward.
Nod or interject a “yes” or an “uh huh.”
Smile or frown in sympathy with what is being said.
Keep your posture open, facing the other person, arms unfolded and uncrossed.
Actively move away from distractions. Turn the radio down, put the magazine away, and so on.
Adapted from Couple Skills: Making your
Relationship Work by McKay, Fanning and Paleg