Communication Tools

Can You Hear Me Now?

by Wally Johnston (c) 2013  (Also published at

Ernest Hemmingway said, “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”

This child didn’t have the pledge quite right:

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic where witches dance, one Nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Another child repeated the Lord’s Prayer as he heard it:

“And forgive us our trash baskets as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets.”

Genuine listening is one of the most precious gifts we can give to others. How do you feel when you know someone has given you undivided attention and you KNOW you have been heard?

Reflective listening is one of the major tools in communication. When we say something it is easy for us to assume that the hearer understands what we are saying. That is the theory.

It was the first day for my son at the new babysitter’s. I picked him up at the end of the day and I asked him,

“How did your first day go?”

“Not good.”


“I had a headache. The lady got upset with me because she said, “Don’t you come back tomorrow with a headache!”

I thought that was rather strange so I asked the sitter what happened. When I told her what he said, she laughed, “That’s not really what I said. I was sorry he had a headache and sympathetically said, ‘I hope you don’t have a headache tomorrow.”

When I picked him up the second day I asked him how it went.

“Not good.”


“I had another headache but I wasn’t going to tell her!”

These kind of problems occur in all relationships, whether home, work, or any social setting.


• Know your communication style (see the February 24th post below).

• Practice good communication skills.

o Things to avoid: Name calling; raising your voice; blaming; finishing another’s sentences; assuming;  interrupting; mind reading; bringing up history (digging up old problems).

o Try to: remove distractions; Use good body language and good eye contact; use planned timeouts;  Use “I” rather than “You” statements.

The most important skill is Reflective/Active Listening. What’s that?

• After hearing what someone says, repeat what you heard back to them.

• The other person lets you know if you understood them or that you missed something.

• After they restate what they said, check with them to see if you now have it right and fully understand  what they are trying to communicate.

Reflective/Active listening would have come in handy for my son and babysitter but he was too young to understand the process.

If you practice these skills you can avoid misunderstandings and make the people around you feel like they were heard.

Remember the Tin Man in the WIZARD OF OZ? It rained while he was in the forest; he got rusty, and couldn’t move. If you don’t use a tool it can get rusty. The same holds true in communication. Even we “experts” need to keep practicing. I know my wife would tell you that (or is that assuming?).

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