What if you could transform your stressful relationships almost instantly? You could if you listen with EAR. What do I mean by that?
When we are criticized or attacked, we respond with defensiveness. It is built into us. Our brains are wired in such a way as to cause an undeniable defensive reaction to danger. That worked well thousands of years ago when we lived primitively. Defensiveness against lions and tigers and bears succeeded!
Today, we have the same self-defense reaction with verbal attacks. Perhaps because we don’t really live in dangerous times, we tend to give a very strong reaction to words as we did thousands of years ago to physical attack. It isn’t helpful.
EAR is a skill that therapists have developed to help us overcome our more primitive reactions. It stands for: Empathize, Assert yourself, Respect both yourself and the other person.
E: Empathize with the other person. That means you quickly sum up what they are saying, in a completely fair and unbiased way. Empathy includes (1) thought empathy, or repeating what the person said, (2) emotions, especially implied (“You seem to be feeling . . .”). Empathy means we listen with a quiet, open mind, as if we had never heard this before. It means we identify what the other person is thinking and feeling, and that we can repeat it back or summarize it in a fair way.
The test of empathy is to have the other person rate your skill at understanding. They give you a score, from 0 – 100, and if you score 90% plus, then you have fairly understood. If the score is less than 90, then work on figuring out what else was said that you missed.
A: Assert yourself: Now that you have understood, it is your turn to talk. Speak up about your ideas and feelings. Keep it short, because it will be hard for the other person if you go on for more than a minute. When we assert ourselves, we speak from our hearts, not defining or characterizing the other person but rather speaking about what we think, what we want, and what we feel.
R: Respect both yourself and the other person. That means you follow the golden rule: treat the other person as you want to be treated. You can simply ask the other person if he or she feels you are being respectful.
That doesn’t mean you have to agree. We can disagree but in a respectful manner. I can have my own views and opinions that are different but I can admit that you have good reasons for seeing things as you do.
The One Minute Drill is an exercise that will vastly improve your listening skills. Imagine a married couple. The husband talks for a minute, plus or minus, and the wife listens. During that time her job is to keep her mind quiet and focused on what he is saying, not on what she thinks or feels. At the end of his minute, she sums up what he has said and what he seems to be feeling. If he rates her at 90% or more on accuracy, then it is her turn. She speaks for a minute, and he summarizes. When he is at 90% accuracy by her rating, then he has the floor and speaks for a minute, and so on.
This is clearly NOT the way normal, functional marriages talk. It is more like a skill drill. If you practice this for 15 minutes per day for a few weeks, you do find your listening skills improving, and those carry over to normal conversations. You can then drop the skill drill because you have achieved the skill itself. I am sure you will find that you are a better listener in all situations.
Copyright © 2007 by Lynn D. Johnson. You may reproduce this handout if copyright information is included. Contact: Lynn D. Johnson, Ph.D. (801) 261-1412; E-mail Email drj@enjoylifebook.com