Why Don’t We Listen Better?
Petersen’s book reveals how effective communication is laying a solid foundation for all relationships. Throughout the book, he provides an exhaustive analysis, which includes a practical aspect of how we ought to communicate, to listen, and to connect with others. Petersen dispels the notion, popularly held by many people, that communication is a lose-win situation. Being a treatise on talking and listening effectively, this book is divided into five major sections. The first part focuses on communication options, whereas the second one presents practical ways of talking and listening.
The third segment identifies numerous communication traps and listening techniques, while the fourth chapter introduces a “talker-listener” paradigm and concludes the book with an insight into essential philosophical concepts (Petersen, 2007). In the process of explaining the role of emotions and logic in effective communication, Petersen introduces what he terms as the “Flat-Brain Theory of Emotions”. In this theory, he argues that the heart, stomach, and the brain all play different roles in effective (or contrariwise ineffective) communication.
The brain determines what we say and how we say it in light of different issues. Our emotional area is the stomach. The heart is a place, where, these two aspects combine. With the help of this three-cornered relationship, Petersen demonstrates the need to balance all three elements. Communication as such cannot be effective when emotions prevail over the logic, or when logic prevails over emotions. The two ought to be balanced. If the stomach (responsible for emotions) overtakes logic (brain), then the “Flat-Brained syndrome” appears (Petersen, 2007).
Petersen also suggests using the Talker-Listener Card (TLC), a technique for creating a safe, healthy, and favorable environment for talking and listening. The cards inform and remind people of their role in the communication process. The author demonstrates that listening demands more than just hearing. He explains that the art of listening needs continuous work and requires certain goals, which should be set. Both parties, for instance, must be provided with a safe place. The listener must aim at understanding the speaker, and the problems need to be clarified in order to achieve the goals of listening. In conclusion, Petersen describes various situations, in which listening would be more specialized. They include suicide and death issues among others.
Petersen’s book made me realize the deficiency in my listening skills. I like winning arguments. Consequently, I have become a “thud” person. In the past, I tried to listen and to keep silent, when a person told me that I did something wrong. With time it has been slowly changing. During dating my partner was once very upset with me. We met for a lunch, and when she started explaining why she was upset, I became all defensive and did not try to understand issues clearly from her perspective. I felt in such a way as if she was attacking me.
Although I was wrong, I felt the need to defend myself. I shouted that I did not deserve her ill-treatment and that I was not going to stay there as she accused me of something I did not do. (Later, I realized that I did not even know what she was accusing me of and that my personal stress made me extremely edgy that day). We raised our voices, did not have lunch, and I left her without a ride back home. Afterward, when we both calmed down, I realized that she had a genuine reason to be upset. Needless is to say that I damaged our relationship with frequent defensive attacks.
In his book, Peterson states that “in relationships, someone winning most often makes everyone a loser” (Petersen, 2007). This quote was a moment of revelation for me. Due to the conflict situation described above, we could not become friends as we used to be before we started dating, because I said many hurtful words, which my then partner could not forget. I realized that I became quick to hit in return, to answer back, and to defend myself.
My relationships, therefore, were based on making counter-accusations, demands, complaints, and avoiding conversations altogether. In fact, these “tactics” were not helpful. Thus, I realized that if I do not change the mentality of always trying to be right in an argument, I will destroy many more relationships. Now I understand that it is necessary for me to focus on improving my listening and communication behaviors.
However, one element about Petersen’s book that bothers me is the level of maturity and responsibility that is expected from me. In the process of growing up, I developed certain habits, but Petersen’s book, demands to an extent, a change in me. I am slightly hesitant to accept the effectiveness of the TLC in helping me to alter my listening skills. I feel that my habits will take more than cards to change totally. However, I am appreciative of Petersen’s advice not to be defensive, accusatory, or interruptive during a conversation. If I could change my habits, I bet I would be a better friend, a better partner, and a better parent in the future.
My main goal is to increase the level of consciousness in my arguing and listening behavior. After reading Petersen’s book and correlating it with my personal listening skills, I realize that I need to improve my focus while listening. When I am not defending myself, I barely pay attention to the conversation. I am physically present, but sometimes I can barely tell what one is saying. I will train myself to be more patient when others are talking to me before I reply. Healthy relationships are destroyed by the notion of some parties winning (Petersen, 2007).
Thus I will make efforts to remember that in the relationships all parties are equal. For instance, my friends and I have acquired a habit of arguing for the sake of winning, but I will try to change my approach. Discomfort, as is explained by Petersen, is part of a listener’s territory. Therefore, I will gradually, surrender to my opponents to become a better person overall.
One particular technique that will help me is acknowledging and addressing the common “thud” feeling of always being hurt and needing to justify and defend myself, as well as suppressing the desire to always win. I realize that one reason, why I react the way I do, is because I let my emotions take preeminence without considering logic. This is what Petersen refers to as the Flat-Brain Tango (Petersen, 2007). I will work towards listening more attentively, meditating, and choosing my words more carefully. I can hurt people’s feelings because of a lack of consideration for the words I use. It happens especially often when an argument seems to be placing me at fault. If I can learn not to use my “stomach” while responding to an argument, I will become a better person.
Although I am not totally sure about the effectiveness of the TLC technique in helping me to improve my listening skills, I will give it a try. I have decided to stick a TLC card on the back of my door, on the wall near my bed, and to pin one on my laptop. They will remind me of what I am expected to do in the process of communication. On the one hand, if I am expected to listen, I will know what to say and how not to react. On the other hand, if I am the talker, I will use the cards to remind myself not to be accusatory or not to make haughty judgments. Applying these techniques, as suggested by Petersen, will make me a better listener and a better person when communicating.
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