Listening Well Is Like Riding An Elephant: Here Are Tips And Exercises To Help You

elephant-ride-patara-elephant-farm-chiang-mai-thailand

Listening well is the hardest kind of listening.  It requires that you be fully present and tuned into the person talking.  You must decipher not only the content of what they are saying but also the emotion underneath their statement. To understand the role of emotions in relationships, I like to use the metaphor of riding an elephant.

As the driver, you are confidant you’re guiding the elephant because you are on top and you are holding the reins.  You represent logic and reason.  However if the elephant has another path he wants to take, he is bigger and stronger and he will determine the direction; the elephant symbolizes our emotions.

We need to understand emotions in our conversations so we know which direction the elephant is taking us. Emotional Reflection helps you understand the elephant.  When used correctly, the tool is the most rewarding and relationship enhancing for the both the listener and the speaker.

Good listening is a talent that gets better with practice so I have included some exercises to increase your skill. Hint: An easy trick is to remember are the adverbs GLAD, SAD, MAD, BAD or AFRAID.  Most situations can be described with these simple adverbs if you are stuck and can’t figure out the emotion

1.  Statement:  “Look, Daddy, I made an airplane with my new Legos!” What is the emotion displayed here? _________________________________ Write out a good Emotional Reflective sentence that mentions the emotion.

 

2.  Statement:  “Jimmy is a pest!  He’s mean! He pulled all my clothes out of my drawers.  I hate him.  I wish I could kill him.” What is the emotion displayed here? ______________________________ Write out a good Emotional Reflective sentence mentioning the emotion.

 

3.  Statement:  “That crazy driver just cut me off!  What a nut!  They should take away his license.  He might kill someone!” What is the emotion displayed here? ________________________________ Write out a good Emotional Reflective sentence mentioning the emotion.  .

 

4. Statement:  “I don’t want to go into the water, it’s too deep! I don’t like don’t like the waves!” What is the emotion displayed here? ________________________________ Write out a good Emotional Reflective sentence mentioning the emotion.

 

5.  Statement:  “I never get a chance to catch the ball with the big kids!” What is the emotion displayed here? ________________________________ Write out a good Emotional Reflective sentence mentioning the emotion.

 

6. Statement:  “For awhile I was doing okay in school but now I am worse than ever and nothing seems to help.” What is the emotion displayed here? ________________________________ Write out a good Emotional Reflective sentence mentioning the emotion.

 

Ready to check your answers?  First look over your responses to see if any of your statements include flattery, criticism or lecturing. Those types of responses are roadblocks to communication. The answers are subjective and your may come up with something you like better but here are some suggestions.

  1. Emotion is pride.  The answer could include a statement like, “You have stayed with that project a long time. I like how big your airplane is.”
  2. Emotion is anger.  The answer could include a statement such as, “I can see Jimmy’s actions make you really mad.  You don’t like it when he gets into your things.”
  3. Emotion is fear.  The answer could include a statement such as, “I can that driver’s actions scared you.  It is frightening to drive by someone who is unpredictable.”
  4. The emotion is fear.  The answer could include a statement such as, “You are afraid to go swimming in the deep water when the waves are high.”
  5. The emotion is loneliness or sad.  The answer could include a statement such as, “You want to play with the big kids and you feel sad when they leave you out.”
  6. The emotion is fear.  The answer could include a statement such as, “You are discouraged and you fear failure.”

Notice how none of the answers include solutions?  It is amazing how often someone can think up his or her own solutions when you use the tool Emotional Reflection. People are far more likely to follow through a solution they suggest.

Good listening avoids giving advice. A handy phrase to use after you have expressed reflected their emotion is to then say “I have faith in you to come up with a solution.”  Give this method a try even if you don’t get the formula exactly right. The people in your life will appreciate your good faith efforts and will prompt you with their correct feeling until they feel understood.  When listening is done well, it will raise your self esteem and others who you care for.

Camille Curtis Foster, MSW, LCSW

Contact Me / 801.472.7134/ 1fosterconnect@gmail.com

Like my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/UtahMentalHealthServices

The metaphor of riding an elephant comes from the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.  You can find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Switch-Change-Things-When-Hard/dp/0385528752

Books for further reading: I don’t have to make everything all better by Joy and Gary Lunberg

P.E.T. Parent Effectiveness Training, The Tested New Way To Raise Responsible Children by Dr. Thomas Gordo

 

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