Listen, Pause, Clarify and Validate
By Michael Angier
Our ability to communicate effectively is one of the most precious
skills we can develop. Most of the time when we think of communicating
well, we think of effectively expressing ourselves. This is certainly
important, but listening is the single most important of all communication
skills. It's what Stephen Covey calls "Seek first to understand and
THEN to be understood."
First and foremost, we must actively listen to what someone is saying.
Perhaps we were given two ears and one mouth because we were supposed to
listen twice as much as we speak. Look at the person who is speaking.
Listen with your whole body and your whole mind. Resist the temptation to
think about your response. People will appreciate your respectful
This is a great habit to develop. When the speaker is finished, pause for
a few seconds before responding. This guarantees that the other person has
really finished talking and there is no danger of cutting them off. By
pausing, we show the speaker that we've listened to them and that we
respect what they had to say enough to consider it before we launch into
You could call this "Backtrack and Clarify." This is where you
rephrase what was said and ask if you understood correctly. You get
agreement as to the communication and you make sure that what you heard
was really what was meant. It takes only a moment and prevents assumptions
that create misunderstandings later.
This is the one with which I've had the most trouble. After you have
clarified, you validate the opinion/feeling/expression of the other.
Validation does not necessarily mean agreement. It simply means that you
understand how the other person might feel or think about something. And
if you WERE them, and had the same experience, you WOULD feel or think
This whole process may appear to be time consuming, but it's really
not. Even if it takes a little longer at first, you'll find that it makes
for clearer, more effective communication with more understanding and less
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