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Book Review: Why Don’t We Listen Better?

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Book Review: Why Don’t We Listen Better?
HSCO 508- Studies in Interpersonal Communication
Destany Sanders
Liberty University
November 28, 2015

SUMMARIZE! “Why Don’t We Listen Better?” by James Petersen is about different ways to improve your communication skills and how to become a better listener. Peterson breaks it up in five different parts, the first part talks about different options one can take when communication. The second part helps develop different approaches on the talking and listening process, the fourth part indicates different listening techniques, and the fifth section concludes it all. In Petersen’s first part “Options in Communicating,” develops several different theories and emotions that are known as the Flat-Brain Theory, this is something that alters your hearing, sight, thinking, as well as your sensibility to things. One who suffers from flat-brain syndrome often believe that others are the problem (Peterson, 2007). The flat brain theory contains a formula of one’s self that includes the stomach, heart and head, the stomach consists of our emotions and feelings, the heart gives and receives concerns, and the head incorporates thinking planning, and remembering (Peterson, 2007). Peterson indicates that the way one think may change their feelings. In the Talker-Listener process, it is Peterson’s way to remind people that you do not overpower to get your point across you have to take turns and listen to each other’s point of view. Which is the Talker-Listener Card (TLC) taking this method into perspective and consideration when talking to someone can be useful in a way that it can help alleviate arguing, and allows you to intake and absorb as much as you can by taking your time and allowing the speaker to say what they have to say before you mention your point. Peterson (2007) explains that the speaker’s goal is to share their thoughts and feelings while the listener goal is to provide safe and understanding (pg. 77-99). The Talker-Listener card provides warning, it warns the talker to not be absurd and attack, or express judgment, and it warns the listener to avoid arguing and disagreeing with the speaker (Peterson, 2007). The third part are several different listening techniques that one may do. Peterson mentions that one may drift in and out when someone is talking to them, many people have the tendency to just pay attention and hear what it is that they want to hear, they tend to have “selective hearing”. As the speaker your goal is to not attack or label the listener, and as the listener you are to be calm and not just hear what the person is saying to you but listen and absorb, be an empathetic listener not a ritual listener and show the speaker that you care and are concerned. According to Peterson (2007) TLC can add objectivity in many discussions. Techniques that Peterson indicates is to acknowledge, repeat, use para feeling, use para thinking, clarify, alternate feelings and thoughts, and more. Peterson then express several different listening skills on how one can partake in when they encounter boring stories, sadness, death, suicidal situations, and anger. The last two sections using the TLC in Groups and Concluding Philosophy provides how one uses the talker-listener card with their families, etc. And lastly Petersen (2007) expresses the importance of empathy, warmth within the therapeutic process, and genuineness (pg.209-213).

RESPOND! There are several different things that I feel I identify with in this book, one thing that I have mentioned prior is the problems with communication. One thing that I can say that I have a problem with that Peterson mentions is waiting my turn to speak. I am sure that a lot of people may be guilty of this you are so eager to speak and say what you have to say that you don’t want to wait and listen and absorb everything that someone is saying to you. I am guilty of this mainly because I tend to forget what I am going to say so I blurt things out without thinking about it, then later I’ll realize how rude that is. I tend to be a ritual listener not all the time, I am quite and listening but not fully, I am processing in my head the next thing that I am going to say. Just recently my fiancé and I ran into an encounter on disciplining our 2 year old, my fiancé was telling me that he should go into timeout because he was playing in the bathroom turning on water, etc. and I wasn’t home to see this all I saw was my son was in his room screaming and crying and I basically tuned out everything that my fiancé was telling me that our son did because I was too concerned that my son was crying like someone was killing him, I was too busy in my head thinking what I was going to say to him and why he shouldn’t let him cry, etc. I didn’t intentionally attack him, but once everything cooled down I understood what was going on. I have noticed that when arguing I tend to only mention and indicate the things that my fiancé have done wrong, and not indicate my wrong doing, this is something that I know and can admit, that I am getting extremely better at handling heated conversations.

REFLECT! One thing in the book that I agree with 100 percent is when Peterson (2007) mentions When we stop defending ourselves, and replace it with listening, can help improve your relationship (p, 108). I have realized that arguing gets you nowhere, you have to listen to each other’s point of view and just accept and listen, and swallow your pride regardless of how hard it is, things can’t get better without effort and understanding. This book was extremely informative and helpful to me in ways to help improve communication and listening skills. The only thing complaint that I can say about this book that bothered me would be the level of responsibility, what I mean by this is it’s not easy to just let go of a lot of things. It’s easier said than done, it just appears that Peterson is expressing a lot of responsibility that one must intake in their lives but no one is perfect and everyone is flawed, it is extremely important to “grow up” and take on several different responsibilities and swallow you pride, and set aside your differences, not argue, etc. but it is not that easy. With the TLC method I believe that it can be helpful to some but there are some bull headed people who may not feel that this method may effectively work. The things in this book seems to be what Petersen sees as an “ideal” person and gives people the idea on how they can improve themselves, but I feel that it is not being completely realistic to a certain point. Peterson lists ways that one should take to alleviate arguing in a relationship/marriage but every relationship has its problems and there is no way to completely alleviate arguing completely because as I mentioned there is no perfect person.

ACT! There are several different things/actions that I need to keep in mind and take into consideration. My main goal is to be more empathetic be more aware of my behavior. I need to train myself to stay focused on the person that’s speaking to me and not jump in and interrupt the speaker. I need to engage more so in the conversation and show that I care about what they are saying to me. I need to give up my defenses and stop being so defensive, and realize that not everyone is trying to attack you, people may criticize you and not like what you have to say but that does not mean that they are trying to attack you. Try different listening techniques when I am situations that I feel that I cannot and will not be able to handle. Another helpful piece of information that Petersen mentions is talk without accusing, attacking or labeling. A lot of times you tend to label people without actually knowing them, Petersen explains the importance of hearing someone out before labeling them, let someone explain themselves about what they have to say fully without arguing with them. It is extremely important to understand fully the context or point of view that someone is trying to indicate before passing judgement. The TLC appears to be an effective tool that I can use, I plan to work on my listening process and with the talker-listener card I plan to implement in a way to be a more effective listener when it comes to my spouse, express different communication skills. Some of the listening techniques that Petersen mentions that I feel are useful and I can use is being understanding, and to actively listen to the speaker, clarify the problem that is at hand, and provide a safe and comfortable environment for one to share their feelings. Something that has been a huge problem for me when I go into interviews is the fact that most times, the person that is conducting the interview tends to make the room feel cold, I have went into a few interviews and not felt comfortable enough to talk to them and be myself. A take away from Peterson is that I would not want people to feel that they cannot come and talk to me about any problems that they may have. People should feel comfortable to come to you and express their concerns and not feel that you are going to attack them or hurt their feelings. And that is one goal that as a parent I tend to aim for, I want my son, when he gets older to feel that he can come to me and talk to me about any concerns and questions that he may have and know that as a parent I will not judge him I will comfort him and help him with any problems that he may be having, that is definitely an important take away that I need to take into perspective.

Petersen, J. C. (2007). Why don't we listen better? Tigard, OR: Petersen Publications

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