This past Friday, I wrote a blog entitled “Healing Starts with Your Ears Not Your Mouth.” We discovered in James 1:19&20, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” Active listening while keeping calm creates a safe environment.
Actively listening starts with a sincere desire to know not only what (content) a sending partner is saying but why and how (emotions expressed) they are saying it. To do this, three very important words need to be understood and integrated as we learn to actively listen: Mirroring, Validating, and Empathizing.
Mirroring is the process of accurately reflecting back the content of a message from a sending partner. Paraphrasing is the most common form of mirroring and is a statement in your own words of what the sender is saying to you. Paraphrasing starts with phrases such as “Let me make sure that I got this…” or “So, I understand you to be saying…”. It indicates that you are willing to transcend your own thoughts and feelings for the moment and attempt to understand the sender from their point of view. Mirroring is your sincere desire not to be satisfied with an interpretation according to your own perspective but truly understand what another is saying. It allows the speaker to send the message again and permits you to paraphrase until you understand. Each time, after the listener paraphrases, he/she will ask, “Did I get it right?” or “Is there more about that?” until the speaker says, “Yes, you got it.” These last four words are very powerful!
Validation recognizes and accepts another person’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior as understandable. It does not mean you have to agree. Typical validating phrases are: “I can see that…” and “It would make sense to me that you would think that…” Remember, THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU! IT IS ALL ABOUT THEM!
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. This deep level of communication attempts to recognize, reach into, and on some level, experience the emotions of the sender. A typical phrase for empathetic communication includes: “I can imagine that you must feel…” Empathy presents you with the possibility of “sincerely touching” your sender partner.
I can’t think of anything Godlier and activates Jesus in real terms than actively listening to another person. At first, it will be clumsy, uncomfortable, and humbling; however, at the end of the day, it shows you care! When a spouse, child, fellow employee, parent, neighbor, or customer looks at you and says, “Yes, you got it”, that’s a big deal. Mirroring, validating, and empathizing along with sincerity become your best friends sorting out difficult relationships or keeping solid relationships current.