The Surprisingly Simple Skill of Listening

I Hear You: The Surprisingly Simple Skill Behind Extraordinary Relationships by Michael S. Sorensen

Do you ever read a book that just drags on and on. This one doesn’t do that.

“As you’ve no doubt noticed, this book is pretty short. I was tempted to add additional (read: unnecessary) chapters, stories, and other fluff in an effort to make the book longer, because a longer book looks more impressive on the shelf, right? Yet few things bother me more than reading a book that takes 300 pages to explain something that could have been covered in fifty. This will not be one of those books.”

I applaud the author for this. It bothers me when people beat around the bush. Just get to the point. The main point here is that we need to listen to people and validate what they are feeling whenever possible. Many of us brush off people’s feelings without much thought. But, “when we tell people they should or shouldn’t feel something, we risk making the situation worse” for them.

“For most people, it’s almost a knee-jerk reaction. How many times have you responded to a friend or family member with some variation of the following? ‘You’ll be fine.’ ‘It could be worse!’ ‘At least it’s not [fill in the blank].’ ‘Just put a smile on your face and tough it out.’ ‘Don’t worry; things will work out.’ ‘Stop complaining; you’re not the only one who’s hurting.’ ‘It’s not that big of a deal.’”

All those phrases should be eliminated from our vocabulary. “What matters is that the other person is worrying and wants someone to see and appreciate that.” With a little thought and understanding, we can show that we are listening and give them some validation for their feelings.

Sorensen believes that “80-90 percent of conversations have at least one opportunity to validate. In other words, if someone is talking to you, they’re probably hoping for validation.”

“Validation has two main elements. It . . .

  1. acknowledges a specific emotion, and
  2. offers justification for feeling that emotion.

“Offering validation—before or instead of offering advice or assurance—is often the best way to help. Doing so helps others let go of difficult emotions much more quickly, often allowing them to find a solution to the problem on their own. Leading with validation also increases the likelihood that others will listen to and accept your advice.”

And remember that “you can validate any emotion in any situation as long as you understand the other person’s perspective.”

This would be a great lesson to teach our students as well. Let’s help them validate others and model that appropriately every day.

Why don’t you look to give some validation today. A little can go a long way.

My Reading Log of 2021 – with links to reviews just like this one