UMBC Wellness in the Workplace

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December 2009: Listen for the concern behind the speaking.

Many communication breakdowns occur in the ways we listen to others. We can listen on different levels – on the level of what is actually said and on a deeper level, to the concern behind the speaking. It can be difficult for us and our partners to communicate our deep concerns and desires. One practice that can be helpful is for the person doing the listening to act as a mirror and reflect back what they hear. Reflecting back what you hear can provide tremendous healing and clarity for the person speaking and helps them get in touch with what’s really going on for them. This kind of listening does something else for the relationship – it lets your partner know your desire to truly hear them, the result of which builds trust.

In the coming month, begin listening for any underlying concerns and before making assumptions about these concerns, check in and reflect back what you’re hearing to your partner. What happens when you do this? How does clarifying back what you hear help strengthen trust between you and your partner?