by Steven Gledhill for Freedom from MEdom Project
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.
James 1:19 (NLT)
Before beginning this discussion on healthy communication, it might be good to acknowledge that we all do not think alike. there are differences from one person to the next. In particular, there are differences between how men think and how women think. There are often times stark differences between the way in which men and women view their lives and the world. Mark Gungor has attempted with obvious humor to suggest this contrast from what he calls the Tale of Two Brains. Check this out:
Critical to our applied recovery is the skill of effective communication. One person communicating in a two-person conversation can do a lot to see to it that something is being communicated effectively by actually listening.
“Say what you mean; mean what you say; but don’t say it mean.” —Betty Murray, RN
What does that mean? Often times, particularly in the midst of confrontation, intended messages are not effectively communicated, resulting in misunderstood messages leading to hurt and angry feelings.
Through aeons of time misunderstood communication has evolved from hurt and resentment into broken relationships—from broken hearts to broken nations and split societies. It is essential that we learn how to listen to one another with what Carl Rogers referred to as unconditional positive regard, or better yet, what the Bible refers to as an attitude of grace from a heart of sincere love for our brother and sister,and even to our enemy.
What we tend not to do when communicating is listen well. We hear what we want to hear or what we don’t want to hear but expect to hear; or at the very least, hope to hear. We allow preconceived notions and scenarios to cloud and distort our reception of what is being communicated.
“Confrontation without love is hostility.” —Tony Evans
To communicate with others more effectively we would benefit by learning something about expressing empathy through more effective listening skills through something called active listening, and better yet, something referred to as reflective listening. Active reflective listening sets the stage for reflective responses geared to better understanding of what is being communicated. Better understanding of communication allows for, and encourages opportunity to validate the speaker.
The alternative to healthy functional communication is unhealthy dysfunctional communication. Interaction that is argumentative, judgmental, critical, and ultimately offensive is typically a lose-lose for the combatants… uh, uh… I mean people engaging in conversation.
The video below is a humorous look at active listening being taught in a classroom to parents.
Become an Active Listener
There are five key elements of active listening. They all help you ensure that you hear the other person, and that the other person knows you are hearing what they say.
Give the speaker your undivided attention, and acknowledge the message. Recognize that non-verbal communication also “speaks” loudly.
- Look at the speaker directly.
- Put aside distracting thoughts (preconceived notions). Don’t mentally prepare a rebuttal!
- Avoid being distracted by environmental factors (turn the TV off, close the book).
- “Listen” to the speaker’s body language.
- Refrain from side conversations when listening in a group setting (referred to as subgrouping at the prison I work at).
Show that you are listening.
Use your own body language and gestures to convey your attention.
- Nod occasionally.
- Smile and use other facial expressions.
- Note your posture and make sure it is open and inviting.
- Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like yes, and uh huh.
Our personal filters, assumptions, judgments, and beliefs can distort what we hear. As a listener, your role is to understand what is being said. This may require you to reflect what is being said and ask questions.
- Reflect what has been said by paraphrasing. “What I’m hearing is…” and “Sounds like you are saying…” are great ways to reflect back.
- Ask questions to clarify certain points. “What do you mean when you say…” “Is this what you meant when you said…?”
- Summarize the speaker’s comments periodically.
Interrupting is a waste of time. It frustrates the speaker and limits full understanding of the message.
- Allow the speaker to finish.
- Don’t interrupt with counter arguments.
Active listening is a model for respect and understanding. You are gaining information and perspective. You add nothing by attacking the speaker or otherwise putting him or her down.
- Be candid, open, and honest in your response.
- Assert your opinions respectfully.
- Treat the other person as he or she would want to be treated.
Expressing Empathy through Reflective Listening
Let’s now define the word empathy and go from there:
The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
Empathy is such a popular term these days, but what exactly does it mean? What are you listening for in the effort to understand and validate the speaker? The truth is that we will not always understand what we are listening to while communicating, making it especially challenging to express empathy. Empathy has more to do with the intent to understand than it does the actual understanding. Counselors and doctors show empathy to their patients by way of statements and questions that reflect understanding. For example, it might go something like, “I understand that you’re concerned about what be going on with you, so it’s important to me that you tell me your symptoms.” All the doctor essentially said is, “You are concerned about your condition and you are important to me.” That is empathy for the patient, having validated the patient no matter how genuine.
As counselors, we often use an approach to empathy referred to as reflective listening. Through reflective listening is the opportunity to listen to, understand, and validate the other person and what they are saying and feeling. Dr. Gary Smalley referred to this effective communication strategy as “LUV talk”. Dr. Smalley spoke of comparing LUV talk to placing an order in a fast-food drive-through lane, that when faced with conflict you should listen carefully to what your mate says about his or her feelings and needs. Then, just like a fast-food worker, repeat back what you hear. This not only helps clarify that you understand, but it also validates and values your mate. Smalley says you don’t necessarily need to agree with your mate’s conclusions in order to understand his or her feelings and needs.
Reflective listening involves repeating back through reflective responses what the person has said in a way that communicates understanding of what is important to the person transmitting the message. Reflective listening involves really hearing and understanding what the speaker is saying through words and body language, and reflecting back feelings and thoughts you heard through your own words, tone-of-voice, body posture and gesture so that the other person knows he or she is understood. Reflective listening and responding requires physically and psychologically attending to the person you are listening to. Whether it is through physical touch, body posture and gestures, or intentionally attending to an active listening environment (i.e., turning the television off or setting the book down).
Other things to pay attention to has to do with following the listening with statements of permission such as:
- Would you like to talk about it?
- Can I help you with your concern (or problem)?
- Would it help to talk about it?
- Is something bothering you?
- You seem upset. Care to talk about it?
- Sometimes it helps to get it off your chest.
- Sometimes it helps to talk about it.
Once the discussion is under way, it is essential that you ask open-ended questions. Open-ended questions are ones which allow another to answer in any way or in any depth he or she chooses. This kind of question does not invite “yes” or “no” or a short response. Open-ended questions can assist the other in exploring aspects of himself or herself that were not initially available to the conscious mind.Open-ended questions are not questions that are answered “yes”, “no”, “maybe” or any other one-word responses that typically do not get anywhere, typically stifling conversation. Questions that are not open-ended tend by their nature, to limit the other to short responses with little or no destination. Questions of this type probe for motives or justifications, and therefore tend to promote a defensive reaction in another. Closed-ended questions should be avoided when practicing reflective listening techniques.Examples of some open-ended questions are:
- What are you feeling about that?
- Could you tell me some more about that?
- What’s on your mind?
- Could you give me an example?
- Could you fill me in a little more about … ?
- Can you say some more about … ?
Finally, reflective listening involves reflective statements, responses that reflect back as accurately as possible, having listened intently, to what is being communicated. There tends to be three types of reflective responses:
- Paraphrasing – the act of saying back to the person in your own words what you heard the person say, attempting to paraphrase appropriate content or meaning.
- Reflective Feelings – listening accurately to another person and reflecting the emotional state of the person in your own words.
- Reflecting Meanings – listening accurately and reflecting both the content and the feeling of the other.
Suggestions for reflective statements in response to the person communicating with you might be:
- What I hear you saying is…
- The impression I get from what you said is…
- What I am hearing is that you appear to be… (i.e., concerned, angry, sad, unhappy, upset, content, satisfied, dissatisfied, confused, wondering, in agreement, misunderstood, etc. – must be accurate or you risk offending the other person)
- It sounds to me like…
- It’s possible that…
- I wonder if…
- I get the impression that…
Generally speaking, reflective responses and statements continue the give and take of effective purposeful conversation. Reflective questions can stimulate further conversation or they can stifle conversation if they appear to the other person to be judgmental and/or offensive, or mistakenly or clumsily become one-sided should one feel the need to inject misguided or misunderstood opinion. That would depend on one’s motivation for the discussion. There can be a tendency to “need” to be understood or validated to the point that even when the speaker is upset or hurting in some way that I respond to the hurting person in a way that suggests I have to be right because, of course, I am right. (That’s what I think.)
Transference and Countertransference
Transference: the phenomenon whereby we unconsciously transfer feelings and attitudes from a person or situation in the past on to a person or situation in the present. The process is at least partly inappropriate to the present.
Countertransference: the response that is elicited in the recipient (therapist) by the other’s (patient’s) unconscious transference communications; responses include both feelings and associated thoughts. When transference feelings are not an important part of the therapeutic relationship, there can obviously be no countertransference.
Typically, the only time transference and countertransference are discussed is in the context of therapeutic relationship between doctor or therapist and patient. I think you will find it interesting how these dynamics are made manifest in our communication with each other in all sorts of relationship; whether between spouses and mates, siblings, friends, professional relationships, and so on. I will not elaborate much on this. I will provide examples of how transference and countertransference might play out between my wife and I, and then how transference and countertransference are brought to life in what Eric Berne diagrammed concerning communication dysfunction.
It would be transference if I unconsciously project some psychological issue I have (i.e., I am experiencing anxiety and stress because of a difficult day at work) that affects and influences my responses to the person who is discussing with me their day, or perhaps an important concern of theirs. Transference directed by the speaker to the listener can provoke countertransference from the listener.
Let’s say I am talking with my wife, a registered nurse. She says, “It was hard for me to respond to a patient who received some bad news from the doctor about his condition.” I could respond by saying, “I am always impressed that you care deeply for the well-being of your patients.” She says, “My supervisor told me I care too much sometimes.” Then I say, “I understand that you are passionate about your job helping people to help themselves.” Then she replies, “I suppose I could pay closer attention to how I am perceived by those I work with.” I respond, “It is important that you are understood as a caring patient that recognizes her boundaries.” She replies, “That’s my intention… I feel better about it. Thanks.”
From that form of reflective listening and responses my wife arrived at her own solution to a dilemma she may have been wresting with outside of my knowing that she even had a dilemma. Even though the above was a fictitious example, I like the way I handled the situation. It’s too bad it was a script. Maybe one day my talks with my wife will actually work out like that one did.
But what if my listening is clouded because of my experience today? Let’s say that my day began with the news that a client I counsel who is locked up in prison was informed that his young son was killed in a car accident last night and I struggled to find the right words to say to him. I am still wrestling with feelings of inadequacy myself as my wife tells me about her day: “It was hard for me to respond to a patient who received some bad news from the doctor about his condition.” So in my feelings of inadequacy (my transference) I respond by saying this to my wife, “I know how important it is for your patients to see that you care, which might be difficult to show when you’re not sure what to say.” I might be right on the money with how I responded. It doesn’t matter! My statement to her was more a reflection of what I was feeling than what she was feeling.
Had I said, “I am touched that you care deeply for the well-being of your patients” she might have said, “Sometimes maybe I care too much, you know what I mean? How do you deal with that working at the prison when one of your guys gets bad news?” This isn’t a counseling session, it’s a discussion between a husband and his wife. So I say… and then I share my experience today.
Had I said, “I know how important it is for your patients to see that you care, which might be difficult to show your patients when you’re not sure what to say” she might have answered, “No, that’s not it… your psychobabble sounded good, though” and she picks up her book to read… end of discussion.
In the first scenario, even though I may have still had my day’s struggle on my mind, I kept my focus on listen, understanding and validating my wife’s message with my response. In the second scenario, it’s pretty clear that my attention was distracted and my response had a lot more to do with getting what I needed; validating me. It may have started out alright, but even the beginning of it was really me saying, “It is so important to me that my client believes I care, but I had nothing for him when he needed me to something to say that would somehow ease his pain.” That was my transference, redirecting my attention from my wife back on to me. In the first scenario is the beginning of quality interactive dialogue between us. In the second scenario, my “counselor-speak” could have offended her, sounding as though I judged her as not being able to communicate concern for her patients and freezing under the pressure to say something supportive. Really, all of that was my issue which I transferred onto her.
So how might countertransference play out in this example? My wife might say to me, “What a day… I’d tell you about it but I really don’t need to hear how I care too much about my patients.” The transference is that my wife has unconsciously transferred the feelings she had with her supervisor onto me. Then I reply to her, “Maybe you could benefit from praying that you will be better prepared to be effective helping your patients deal with the crisis of bad news.” The countertransference is my unconscious feelings of inadequacy helping my client in his crisis. Perhaps had I had quality prayer time in the morning instead of the quicky drive by prayer on my way into work, I would have been ready to better help my client. I projected my feelings into my response to my wife’s communication to me. I did listen to her but through the lens of my concerns and feelings of inadequacy today.
Parent, Adult, Child Communication
In the 1950s, Dr. Eric Berne began developing a theory concerning communication that he referred to as Transactional Analysis. By the early 1960s, Dr. Berne published a couple of books regarding his theory, including the rather famous “Games People Play” in 1964 that serves as the handbook for Transactional Analysis. Dr. Berne suggests that adults communicate from alter ego states, or personas, he called Parent, Adult, and Child.
The Parent persona is the underlying voice of authority conditioned by what we have been taught. Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers, clergy, Sunday School teachers, our friends’ parents, neighbors, television and radio personalities, government authority and law enforcement, doctors and nurses, social norms, etc., have instructed, shaped, and conditioned the values of the Parent persona all of our life. External events, said and done, have been ingrained into our psyche, having influenced how we think and feel, and now, as then, drive our attitudes and behavior.
The Parent persona tends to be critical and judgmental, and can be sarcastic, patronizing and condescending. The Parent persona is angry and resentful and can be spiteful and vengeful. The Parent persona wants its own way and is persistent in getting it.
When the Parent persona communicates, it is addressing the Child persona within the adult person the Parent is interacting with.
The Child persona is the underlying voice of experiences felt growing up from early childhood to adulthood. The experiences of external events that have shaped and conditioned the Child persona within each of us evoke feelings of anger, shame, failure, disappointment, rejection, helplessness, resentment, bitterness, isolation, alienation, etc. The Child persona is also influenced by experiences of entitlement, privilege, covetousness, envy and jealousy, selfish greed, etc. As the Child persona is affected by present circumstances and stimuli, the Child reaction is the expression of a lifetime’s evolution of feelings and learned responses that come back into play in adulthood.
The Child persona will react automatically when its senses are cued by the Parent persona that it is communicating with. The manifestation of the Child persona can be an attitude of rebellion and defiance, but can also come from the place of a victim. The Child persona is subject to psychological abuse.
The Child persona reacts to the communication of the Parent persona, but can also react to another person communicating from a Child persona. Spouses fighting can transition from Parent talking to Child, and Child reacting/responding to Parent, to Child exchanging fiery dialog with Child. As the verbal conflict heats up, escalating into something nasty and ugly, the health of communication, and ultimately relationship, deescalates, descending into something bitter and isolating.
The Adult persona in this process of interactive communication relies on reasonable thought. The Adult persona tends to remain rational and sensible while the Parent and Child personas trend toward irrationality, and their interaction is ineffectual and dysfunctional. Since the Adult is relatively healthy and functional, its interactive efforts to communicate are directed to the Adult persona internal to the other person, for the purpose of effective and productive interaction.
There are four transaction types in Dr. Berne’s Transactional Analysis model. There is Parent to Child transactions, Child to Parent transactions, Child to Child transactions, and finally, Adult to Adult transactions. Parent-Child, Child-Parent, and Child-Child transactions between adults can quite clearly be said to carry there share of transference and countertransference. Sadly, in the analysis of communication patterns, relationships tend to adopt these Parent and Child personas. One of my clients at the prison coined this idea of “psychological domination”. To dominate a person psychologically means that someone is being dominated. The person communicating from the parent persona has assumed the role of dominator, as harsh as that sounds. The person assuming the Child persona responding to the “Parent” is attempting to defend being dominated, trending toward a combative confrontational posture.
Here is an example of Parent-to-Child communication that breaks down even more into Child-to-Child interaction:
- Husband/Initiator: “How many times do I have to remind you not to put my softball jersey in the dryer?”
- Wife/Receiver: “I’m sorry, but I wasn’t paying attention.”
- Husband: “How many jerseys have you ruined this year? I’m going broke replacing them.”
- Wife: “I’ve got the kids laundry… your laundry… it’s too much!”
- Husband: “You’re so careless… I can’t believe you sometimes.”
- Wife: “If you weren’t so self-absorbed…”
- Husband: “You’re the one always complaining.”
- Wife: “Could you be more selfish? You’re impossible!”
- Husband: “You’re an idiot!”
- Wife: “You’re a fool!”
The transference of the speaker initiating communication will contribute to whether the speaker comes from the Parent or Child persona. Perhaps the initiating speaker felt bullied by parents, siblings, classmates, and so on. This person might assume the child persona as a kind of victim in meaningful relationships. Or, this person might seek to “dominate” in the Parent persona compensating for past victimizations, refusing to be dominated, taking the offensive from a self-perceived position of strength. The same can be said for the responder’s countertransference from either position. Initiators of interactive communication who may have been allowed to “dominate” growing up for whatever reason might be insistent in how they communicate from the Parent persona.
There are Child-Child interactions as well that are the result of transference issues that provoke dysfunctional communication patterns. Anything but healthy Adult-to-Adult interactions is ineffective and proves to be dysfunctional.
Here is an example of what began as Parent-to-Child interaction but when the respondent, in this case the wife, refuses to respond in the Child persona, the interaction converts into much healthier Adult-to-Adult communication:
- Husband: “How many times do I have to remind you not to put my softball jersey in the dryer?”
- Wife: “I hear that you’re angry. I’m sorry, I suppose I could have paid better attention.”
- Husband: “How many jerseys have you ruined this year? I’m going broke replacing them.”
- Wife: “I understand that you’re frustrated. I assure you that it was an accident; I wasn’t thinking clearly.”
- Husband: “I understand, too, that you have an awful lot of responsibility around here. I guess it isn’t so important that I tear you apart over it. You didn’t deserve that.”
- Wife: “Thanks for understanding. Do you think you could help me out with a few things I need so I can be more attentive to what you need?”
- Husband: “I know of a few of the things that are important that you need help with. Would you jot a few of the other things down for me?”
- Wife: “Sure, I appreciate your willingness to help.”
- Husband: “Thank you for being so patient with me.”
- Wife: “Because I love you… that’s marriage.”
Notice that the wife does not respond Child-to-Parent, but rather she responds Adult-to-Adult. The husband proceeded to address her Parent-to-Child, but she continued to use empathy in her Adult-to-Adult responses. Her use of empathy changed the tenor of the interaction as her husband’s anxiety was disarmed and his “better side” followed up with Adult-to-Adult responses. It is in the heat of the moment that Adult-Adult interaction is most challenging and difficult, but not at all impossible.
The Parent persona always directs communication to the Child persona. The Child persona always directs communication to the Parent persona, and the Adult persona always directs communication to the Adult persona, even if it is received by the Parent or Child persona within the other person. The critical element of Adult communication is for at least one person to be committed to Adult communication even when the other person is communicating from their parent or child persona. That is what the wife committed to doing in the above example to the point that the interaction was empowered to grow into Adult communication.
LUV Language—Listen, Understand, Validate
This LUV strategy has been taught by Dr. Gary Smalley.
The Three Basic Listening Modes (Dr. Larry Nadig)
- Competitive or Combative Listening happens when we are more interested in promoting our own point of view than in understanding or exploring someone else’s view. We either listen for openings to take the floor, or for flaws or weak points we can attack. As we pretend to pay attention we are impatiently waiting for an opening, or internally formulating our rebuttal and planning our devastating comeback that will destroy their argument and make us the victor.
- Attentive Listening happens when we are genuinely interested in hearing and understanding the other person’s point of view. We assume that we heard and understand correctly, but stay passive and do not verify it.
- Active or Reflective Listening is the single most useful and important listening skill. In active listening we are also genuinely interested in understanding what the other person is thinking, feeling, wanting or what the message means, and we are active in checking out our understanding before we respond with our own new message. We restate or paraphrase our understanding of their message and reflect it back to the sender for verification. This verification or feedback process is what distinguishes active listening and makes it effective.
It has been said that listening is a skill. Effective listening requires intent on the part of the listener to be engaged in the conversation. Someone intent on really listening is most likely to remove and/or minimize distractions. It may not be enough to flip the book over, or turn the volume down on the television. Instead, mark your spot and close the book, and perhaps set it aside. Turn the television off and commit your attention to the person speaking to you. Effective listening allows the speaker to complete sentences and thoughts. The temptation can be intense to complete the speakers sentences, or briefly summarize what is being said to move the conversation along. The other temptation is to interject unwarranted opinions, advice, and humor as distraction or deflection from active listening. Avoid such interjections until it is asked for or until it is clear that the speaker has completed the expression of their thought. Avoid being preoccupied with what you are going to say, looking for the right spot to jump in, and not really listening to what is being said.
- Depending on the purpose of the interaction and your understanding of what is relevant, you could reflect back the other persons:
- Account of the facts
- Thoughts and beliefs
- Feelings and emotions
- Wants, needs or motivation
- Hopes and expectations
- Don’t respond to just the meaning of the words, look for the feelings or intent beyond the words. The dictionary or surface meaning of the words or code used by the sender is not the message.
- Inhibit your impulse to immediately answer questions. The code may be in the form of a question. Sometimes people ask questions when they really want to express themselves and are not open to hearing an answer.
- If you are confused and know you do not understand, either tell the person you don’t understand and ask him/her to say it another way, or use your best guess. If you are incorrect, the person will realize it and will likely attempt to correct your misunderstanding.
- Use eye contact and listening body language. Avoid looking at your watch or at other people or activities around the room. Face and lean toward the speaker and nod your head, as it is appropriate. Be careful about crossing your arms and appearing closed or critical.
- Be empathetic and nonjudgmental. You can be accepting and respectful of the person and their feelings and beliefs without invalidating or giving up your own position, or without agreeing with the accuracy and validity of their view.
To better understand what is being communicated requires attentive listening, meaning that you are paying direct attention to the one speaking to you; not only paying attention to the words spoken, but also being attentive to nonverbal communication expressed through body language and facial expression.
When you are listening, the intention to understand what the communicator is meaning to convey, then, is focused on the nonverbal conversation at least as much as the spoken word. Seek to understand by listening for the emotion driving the communication. While you may not always be able to detect emotions when their delivered in subtlety, you can usually perceive that something is at least important to the communicator.
Validation is next in the progression of this LUV language of communication. It is the critical piece to reflective listening. Each time your response includes a paraphrase of what has been spoken to you, and identify verbally the emotion of the communicator, the result is validation that he or she is worth your attention, that you are engaged in the interactive communication process, and that you really do care and understand. We all have a built in need to be validated as being worthwhile and important. So when we validate and are validated as a form of interactive exchange, it feels better.
So how do you validate as a way to express empathy through reflective responses?
While you are listening, and you perceive the emotion of anger, you might respond by repeating back in your own words what was said but preface your response by saying, “I sense you’re angry about… ” or conclude your response with, ” … you seem to be pretty upset about it.” The same can be said to identify positive emotions (“you sound really happy about that” or “it sounds like you really enjoyed yourself”)
How do you respond if you sense concern but are unable to identify deeper emotion than that?
Reply with a simple response that does not assume the risk of misidentifying emotion or triggering non-intended emotion: “I can tell you are concerned about that”, or “That is obviously important to you.” Words like ‘concerned’ and ‘important’ usually apply even when you are not sure how or why it is important or of concern. Other validation words that do not necessarily carry as much intensity that are safe include: ‘upset’, ‘disappointed’, ‘feel good’ (“sounds like you feel pretty good about that”), and tend to carry less risk when you are not as certain how to identify deeper, more intense emotions such as: angry, resentful, bitter, shameful, failure, happy, joyful, festive, foolish, and so on.
LUV—listen, understand, validate—when applied in interactive communication can, and should, have the effect of disarming unhealthy defenses while empowering healthy conversation. Disarming because (and this especially true if the raw emotion is directed at you in confrontation) it suggests that you are, at least in part, agreeable, even when you do not necessarily agree; and empowering because of the apparent vulnerability it takes to understand what someone is feeling, communicating access to the part of you that is engaged emotionally in the discussion.
We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.
Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first. If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their Christian brothers and sisters. 1 John 4:16-21 (NLT)
LUV, when applied in the method of reflective listening and responses, is the open door to Adult-to-Adult interactive communication. Playing on the word ‘love’ with the acronym ‘LUV’ is, of course, no coincidence. It is deliberate and intentional. Even when Carl Rogers coined the phrase “unconditional positive regard”, it was intended as an umbrella of loving grace when applied to and in relationships.
David G. Myers says the following in his Psychology: Eighth Edition in Modules:
“People also nurture our growth by being accepting; by offering us what Rogers called unconditional positive regard. This is an attitude of grace, an attitude that values us even knowing our failings. It is a profound relief to drop our pretenses, confess our worst feelings, and discover that we are still accepted. In a good marriage, a close family, or an intimate friendship, we are free to be spontaneous without fearing the loss of others’ esteem.”
Perfect love is found in relationship with Jesus Christ, the One who demonstrated perfect love through His sacrifice so that we can live according to His example. As you conclude the reading of this article, imagine communicating in your relationships, from those most important to those more casual, freely interacting with people in conversation while applying this LUV strategy of reflective listening and responses.
You can be subtle in your approach to using reflective listening and response as you make it a point to listen with the purpose of understanding so that you can more easily validate the feelings and concerns of those you interact with. You don’t have to be clever about its application, parsing your words as if you’re going to be evaluated or something. No one has to know you’re trying something that could revolutionize how you communicate with people. Try it with someone you don’t know so well; someone who wouldn’t necessarily become curious as to why you don’t seem altogether yourself while you attempt to reflect back what they are saying. See if you can provoke and prompt the person you’re talking with to move a little deeper into a concern or problem. See if by reflecting back what he or she is saying through your responses, the person can sensibly navigate his or her way into a solution or the next step in managing the difficulty.
The tools learned in this article are a vital piece to sustained authentic recovery. I can be active in recovery on so many levels, however, relationship recovery is vital to my recovery from being selfish, particularly as I interact with people through graceful communication. The Apostle John wrote that they will know we are Christians by our love. Is my love for my loved ones and my friends, my neighbors and co-workers, and even acquaintances reflected in how I communicate with them? Can I take my eyes off me long enough to listen to, to understand, and then to validate what is important to them?
We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. 2 Corinthians 6:3-4, 6 (NLT)