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Improving life... one conversation at a time. Sunday September 6, 2015

Something we do all the time can become so commonplace that we don't think about it and it becomes, in effect, a blind spot.

Perhaps the most important blind spot of all is in the way we talk and listen to other people in conversation.

Our most fundamental need is to feel heard. To feel understood. It allows us to feel validated and acknowledged.

Yet, it can happen very rarely. In fact research shows that 70% of conversations are unproductive or poor.

The key seems to be to listen attentively, concentrating on what the other person is trying to say. And importantly, then to show you have heard by summarising what you have heard (the words and music) and check it with the speaker.

By listening hard, ironically, you will find that others will want to listen to you. Mutual understanding or empathy will grow. And this empathy is the basis of rewarding relationships. And good relationships are the basis of a better life.

Sounds easy, but it can be very difficult in practice. But well worth the effort.

The Moodscope team.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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elizabeth Sun, Sep 6th 2015 @ 9:19am

Hello Adrian, I find relationships extremely difficult both to initiate and to sustain. I think this is because I don't really understand what a friend is. Your blog appealed to me because I liked the bit about empathy. It sort of helped me to understand how relationships can happen. Also I liked it when you said you have to understand what people are trying to say.

Hopeful One Sun, Sep 6th 2015 @ 10:01am

Hi Adrian - thanks for that gem. Reflection and summarising are key to creating empathy(in another context a central feature of client centred therapy) . To my mind there is another aspect which is just as important. It is called awareness, which one can develop through some form of meditative practice, where we acquire a mindset which ignores the distraction of our own thought steam to allow us to concentrate on hearing and listening to what the other person has to say. That, in my experience ,is the most difficult thing to achieve consistently but worth the effort especially if the other party in the conversation is able to reciprocate.

The Gardener Sun, Sep 6th 2015 @ 11:44am

Oh Adrian, you really have hit the nail on the head. I'm an awful listener, my head being full of thoughts or ripostes. When you listen to 'today in Parliament' it's like the parrot house at the Zoo - and they are our rulers and law-givers! When conversing in other languages I spend so much time fishing for vocabulary and mentally correcting my grammar that the subject has passed on. The French, bless them, so lively, so chatty - I've spent hours on bar stools just chatting (even nicer in Italy) never listen. French committee meetings are anarchy - everybody talks at once, never addresses 'The Chair' and minutes? What are they. Now my social life is so reduced, writing to my friends (and Moodscope daily) makes me 'listen' through the words, and, perhaps, think before I reply. A good 'listener' is above the price of rubies.Little diversion, our priest has returned my articles for the parish magazine. He is from the Cameroons. In church, however hard we listen, non of us, English or French, can really understand French spoken with the African 'lilt', it's not really an 'accent'.

Julia Sun, Sep 6th 2015 @ 1:51pm

Hi The Gardener. I was interested in your comment about French who speak with a lilt. French has one or two ex colonies which are now fully French and if you ever listen to France Inter on the radio in France you will often hear citizens from those ex colonies who have this wonderful lilt. I find them terribly easy to understand!! I guess they may be also from French speaking African countries too but to me, I find their speech almost mesmerising and they speak so clearly! Do you know why your articles have not been included in the parish magazine? Can you find out? You will be disappointed. You mentioned you were having to contend with Alzheimers. Is this a close relative who has it? Why is your social life reduced?

The Gardener Sun, Sep 6th 2015 @ 3:03pm

Hello Julia - misunderstanding, the articles were copies of many published before the arrival of this priest. I wrote about 150 over 12 years for our english and French churches (Anglican and Catholic, most interesting and challenging). Sadly all scuppered for lack of funds. The Alzheimer sufferer is my husband, social life cut by his fear of nearly everything. We get to a venue he knows, people he knows, within 10 minutes he's cold, hot, lights too bright, going to fall over, and the clincher going to be sick. He's convinced he can't walk and is going to fall over (realistic to him, the doctors say). This means, although we live in a town, we have to go by car even 100 metres to church or restaurant - means finding parking - an irony having deliberately chosen a house in the town centre for our old age. Hence the feverish writing!

Julia Sun, Sep 6th 2015 @ 4:07pm

Thank you for answering my questions Gardener. How very frustrating for you living with a husband who has Alzheimers. I hope you get some outside care for him to allow you some time on your own to look after yourself. With very best wishes Julia

Bearofliddlebrain Sun, Sep 6th 2015 @ 5:24pm

Thank you Adrian, for highlighting this!
I find I try to listen well, and nod and comment appropriately...but with most of my family I struggle to get a word in edge ways! One of my brothers and my sister do this a lot, my sister being the worst at this: she seems to think that only her opinions or stories are worth hearing so she talks over me a lot. It gets so bad and she is so desperate to butt-in before I have finished a couple of can see her struggling and waiting to pounce back in that in the end, I give up trying to get a relevant comment or story finished! Sister in law does it too - it just makes me feel that what I have to say isn't worth much at all, so sometimes I just give up!

If you can listen well and respond, the other person feels valued and you both benefit by getting so much more in the way of friendship.

Natori Sun, Sep 6th 2015 @ 9:48pm

This is a very important post, thank you. It helps anyone move from where they are to where they may want to be, by initiating conversations and listening patiently, reflecting back what one heard, and later saying one's own piece. Also perhaps reading books about having successful conversations. But nothing replaces actually having one, so important to keep trying, with people with whom there is some chance of success. And sometimes listening attentively before speaking makes the chance of success greater. Then again there are people who will talk and talk and talk unless we intervene with our own statement of need or interest. So learning this balance can go a long way toward reducing depression when one has people one can be honest with.

Claire Mon, Sep 7th 2015 @ 9:47pm

Listening...really listening to what others are trying to say...a huge lesson in life for me...I grew up amongst a large family who were all very vocal and don't hear anything but their own voice was crushed...muffled...silenced at various points..I lost my voice and much more besides...but my strength is in knowing when it's needed....I prefer to listen now...and when my genes get the better of me...I try to reign it in...shut up and listen....

.Bearofliddlebrain...I have female members of family who talk over people...constantly...they have no self's embarrassing....they finish your sentences before you've even had a chance to make your point...they hijack conversations.....the worst is they don't come up for breath and don't hear not a single word you've said and then the number of misunderstandings that ensue....this saddens and stresses I tend to just avoid them..sadness and stress limitation..

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