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 listening.
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 our response.
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
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 like them.
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 hurt feelings.
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