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Communication Clinic: 5 Ways to Get Your Husband to Listen
by Dr. Richard Nicastro, The Official Guide to Intimacy
What motivates someone to listen to another person? Understanding this question will help you work toward more effective listening in your own marriage or relationship.

1. Clear message, favorable outcome

Clearly communicating your needs is the foundation of effective communication and a healthy relationship. Marriage counselors often focus on improving a couple's communication skills; a breakdown in communication often leads to significant marriage and relationship problems.

Unfortunately, many couples have discovered that clearly communicating their needs, while necessary, doesn't always work out as planned. Unless, of course, you found that mythic creature, the altruistic listener--the kind of listener depicted in romance novels and films. The altruistic listener hears a message once and responds as you hoped. He's always responsive, is interested and concerned about you and therefore interested in what you have to say. (If you find such a person, you may want to grab on tightly and not let go.)

Most of us end up in a marriage or relationship with the sluggish, self-absorbed listener (SSL). They really do mean well. But they're overworked, overextended, overwhelmed, and, like most of us, have their own emotional baggage to sort out. When communicating with an SSL, sometimes sending a clear message leads to a favorable outcome (what you hoped for); at other times, it doesn't. That's why other communication methods are often needed.

No matter who the listener is, you should never abandon the clear message principle.

2. Give a little, get a little

This is the carrot-at-the-end-of-the-stick communication. This type of "give and take" is a natural part of any relationship. This communication approach is effective for two reasons:

First, it shows your partner that you are a giving person and this may stir his/her own desire to give back (giving is often contagious);

Second, this type of communication underscores the importance of fairness and compromise in relationships. For example, saying, "I'm running out to buy us dinner, can you straighten up the house a little until I get back?" implies that it would only be fair that your partner do his part since you are taking the time and effort to get dinner.

You can rely more heavily on this approach when it's apparent that your spouse/partner needs some incentive (a nudge) to put on his/her best listening ears and get his sluggish self in high gear.

3. A little appreciation goes a long way

Despite the complexities of the human mind, many of us respond like Golden Retrievers when it comes to receiving a little praise. In other words, when you make your husband feel good about something he's done, you increase the likelihood that he will repeat that behavior.

Parents do this all the time with children and you may already do this instinctively. For instance, your husband cuts the lawn and you say, "Wow, the lawn looks great!" In that simple statement you showed gratitude for the job he did—and gratitude will make him feel appreciated (which, in turn, will make him more likely to mow the lawn next time…).

Compare this kind of appreciation to no feedback or saying something like, "Good thing you finally cut the lawn, it was looking like a jungle out there." In this instance, you're highlighting the negative—essentially the message is that he should cut the grass and his laziness made the grass look terrible. But when you comment on a job well done, you've made him feel appreciated, thereby reinforcing his grass-cutting behavior.

It's human nature to feel good about yourself when someone you care about shows gratitude for something you've done. You can never heap too much gratitude and thanks onto your spouse/partner—unless, of course, it's insincere. For many couples, danger lies in not showing enough appreciation because they've come to expect certain things from one another.

A little praise goes a long way in getting someone to listen.

4. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar

I cannot emphasize this point enough: The way in which you say something (how you package your message) can make all the difference in whether your words get through to your partner (and have the intended impact) or end up unheard, gathering dust in his mental spam-filter.

As the speaker, your top priority is to have your words heard, to prevent the listener from becoming defensive or tuning out. Ultimately, you want your message to impact the listener in such a way that s/he has been alerted of your needs and motivated to follow through and meet your needs.

Example of Vinegar:

"Can't you see I'm up to my elbows in this mess? Don't you think of anybody but yourself? At least take out the garbage!"

Example of Honey:

"Life is so much easier when you help out. Can you take out the garbage?"

It's usually best to use the honey approach or the appreciation approach when trying to get your message across to your spouse/partner.

5. The Reprimand (aka: The slap on the wrist)

If you're like most people, once in a while you will say and do something that is upsetting to your partner, and your partner will do the same (you're only human, after all); when this occurs it may be important to address the troubling issue—with the goal of stopping your partner from repeating the upsetting behavior.

But what if you've told him several times to stop a certain unwanted behavior (for example, to stop joking about your new hairstyle), yet despite your best efforts, he continues on this insensitive path?

Hopefully it won't get to this point, but there will be times that you'll have to up the communication ante and be more forceful. In these instances, your partner may need to hear a firm, "I asked you not to make fun of my hair…it's inappropriate and cruel! Stop it already!" And you may find that you need to add something like, "If you continue to say hurtful things, I'll have no choice but to see you less." (Admittedly, that's harder to follow through on if you live together…)

As you can tell, The Reprimand packs an emotional punch to help get your point across.

It's best to use this approach when the other four communication methods described above fail to work (however, make sure you give them ample time). Having to rely too heavily on The Reprimand may indicate the existence of underlying relationship problems that need to be addressed in marriage or couples counseling.

If you automatically rely on The Reprimand (when it isn't necessarily warranted) to get what you want, take a few deep breaths and slow down. Begin adding the other methods to your communication repertoire and practice them until they become a natural part of your marriage or relationship. In doing so, you may find that the doors of mutual, effective communication are starting to open.

To discover more relationship tips, visit and sign up for Dr. Nicastro's FREE Relationship Toolbox Newsletter.

When you sign up you will also receive the popular free reports: "The four mindsets that can topple your relationship" and "Relationship self-defense: Control the way you argue before your arguments control you."

Author's Bio
Richard Nicastro, Ph.D. is a psychologist and relationship coach with fifteen years experience helping individuals and couples live more fulfilling lives.
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5 Ways To Be A Better Listener
by Gilda Bonanno
Listening is a crucial skill for professional and personal success. Yet it seems like such a basic skill - we all know how to listen, right? But although this skill is basic in theory, it's difficult to execute. Yes, everyone can listen, but how many people can listen well?

Communication is a two-way street - there is a sender (the speaker) and there is a receiver (the listener). And if all goes well, the message that is sent is the same message that is received. As the receiver/listener, it is your job to make sure you understand what the sender/speaker is trying to communicate.

Why is listening important? First, it shows respect to the speaker. When was the last time someone listened - really listened - to you? Didn't it make you feel good, like you had something worth listening to? That's how you want to make others feel when they speak to you. Business and life would be a lot easier if we showed each other more respect.

Second, if you listen well, you can learn something. If you ask a good question and then open your ears and close your mouth, you'll be amazed at what people will tell you. This point was driven home by one of my favorite colleagues, Nancy Urell, when she shared a wise saying that she heard: "When you talk, you hear what you already know. When you listen, you learn something new." (Nancy Urell, Principal, Career Corner Associates, a training and career management firm, What new things could you be learning if you stopped to listen?

Here are 5 ways to improve your listening skills:

1. Focus. If you decide that someone is worth listening to, then give the speaker your full attention. Turn away from the computer and set your cell phone to vibrate. We may like to think we can multi-task, but we really can't do it with tasks, and we certainly can't do it with people. You can't read your email or read the newspaper and listen to someone at the same time. Sure, you might hear what they are saying, and you may even catch the meaning of some of it, but you are not really listening.

2. Show that you are listening. Make eye contact, ask relevant questions and avoid distracting behavior like yawning or checking your watch frequently.

3. For a few minutes, let it be all about the other person. Don't use the time to think about your rebuttal. It's important to remember that the function of listening is to understand what the other person is saying, not necessarily to agree with it. Yes, you can disagree, but first you have to understand the other's point of view. And sometimes, just listening and having the other person feel "heard" will be enough to defuse any disagreement.

4. Read between the lines. Don't just listen to the words – also tune into the non-verbal communications. Watch the other's
body language and become aware of the feelings behind the words. If you're not sure, ask questions to check that your understanding matches theirs. Usually you have to deal first with the person's feelings, whether anger, frustration or joy, before you can move on to problem-solving or resolution.

5. Resist the urge to interrupt. Ah, this is a tough one for many of us, me included. Sometimes we're so agitated by what we've heard, or we're so excited, that we feel we have to cut them off with "but that's not what happened" or "you think that's bad, wait till you hear what happened to me!"
Interrupting tells the other person that you think your words are more important than theirs, which is not the message you want to send. As with any skill development, practicing helps.

As Stephen Covey reminds us in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, "seek first to understand, then to be understood." The next time you're in a conversation with a colleague, a loved one or even someone you've just met, practice active listening. You'll be amazed at how that simple habit can improve your relationships and give you opportunities to learn.

Copyright (c) 2008 Gilda Bonanno LLC All rights reserved
You may reprint this entire article and you must include the copyright info and the following statement "Gilda Bonanno is a speaker, trainer and coach who specializes in helping individuals and organizations break out of their comfort zones and become more successful than they thought possible. Contact her at"

Author's Bio
Gilda Bonanno is a trainer, speaker and coach, specializing in communication and leadership skills. She designs and delivers high-energy, client-focused training programs and workshops for corporate, academic and community clients, including Praxair, Bristol-Myers Squibb, The Hartford Insurance Company and Southern CT State University.

She is an Authorized Distributor of Inscape Publishing instruments, including DiSC® assessments, and is qualified in the administration of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator ®. She is also a certified Project Management Practitioner (PMP) and holds an Advanced Business Certificate in Management from the UConn Graduate School of Business.

Gilda is President of the Southern CT chapter of the American Society for Training and Development, a member of the National Speakers Association and active in Toastmasters International.

Subscribe to Gilda's free twice-monthly e-newsletter at

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