Listeners Blog

Tag Archives: Openness and Acceptance


Never too close to comfort

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Of all the ills that beset mankind in the 21st century, the cruelest must be Alzheimer’s disease. It robs its victims of the most precious gift of advancing age – the companionship of family and friends – by taking away the ability to have meaningful conversations.

Modern research is focused on finding the causes and perhaps a cure for or at least a way to lessen or postpone the advancement of Alzheimer’s, but it has been with us for a very long time. In “Hamlet,” Shakespeare describes our return to “second childishness and mere oblivion” as we age.

Amid the challenges and frustrations of daily caregiving for spouses or parents or grandparents suffering from dementia, it is important to take the time to follow them on their conversational journeys. The first step is to let go of your own need to keep them connected to the real world or grounded in the present.

Does it really matter that your mom thinks you are your sister, and talks like you’re not in the room? Depending on family dynamics, it might be hurtful, but what is there to be gained from an argument? Nothing but resentment on your part, since she won’t understand – or remember.

Instead, take a deep breath and think back to the patience she had when you were just learning to talk, listening to you tell the same story over and over until you got it right (for you). Maybe she even held conversations with your imaginary friends, because she knew they were real and important to you.

It may be time to return the favor, and use your active listening skills, your empathy and understanding, to let her know you’re there, no matter when or where she thinks that is. She may not appreciate it, but in the long run, you will.



Listening Between the Words

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Good supportive listeners obviously pay attention to what other people say. By truly listening, we allow other people space to express their deeper feelings and find their personal inner truth.

But did you know that more than half of the total impact of a spoken message is nonverbal? Only 7 percent of any message is carried by the words used alone. That leaves nearly 40 percent of the meaning of any conversation to be conveyed vocally – the tone of voice, inflection, pauses, speed of responses, etc.

Supportive ListeningWe all know how this works. You call your friend on the phone, and even though you can’t see the other person, you can tell that there’s something wrong. They sound down, or irritated, or distracted. You can’t see their body language but you can hear it. Even when they say, “Oh, nothing. I’m fine, really.”

Your ear hears the words, but your brain says they don’t match the sounds between the words. Something else is going on, and it’s most likely something important.

This is when a good listener begins to ask questions to help the speaker explore those important underlying issues. The crucial factor is to ask with empathy.

A supportive listener doesn’t call someone out for avoiding a subject. A supportive listener lets the speaker know it’s OK to talk about serious topics, that the listener will hear without judging or confronting. When the speaker feels safe expressing difficult thoughts and feelings, the conversation can progress into areas of enlightenment, for both parties.



How we listen

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We believe that everyone carries inside themselves the potential for problem-solving that leads to personal growth. As supportive listeners, our job is not to figure out “What can I do to solve this person’s problem?” but to instead help our clients find their own answers and insights.


This style of listening involves four components, once identified by psychologist Carl Rogers as empathy, acceptance, congruence, and concreteness.

Empathy is the effort to understand your internal frame of reference. We try to understand your thoughts and feelings as they are, not as someone else thinks they should be. We want to hear you without judging you, so you can explore your problems — and yourself — according to your own lights.

Acceptance means having respect for a person for simply being a person. Unconditional acceptance encourages you to be less defensive and to explore aspects of your situation that you might have otherwise kept hidden.

Congruence requires openness, frankness and genuineness on the part of the listener. As congruent listeners, we are in touch with our feelings and communicate them honestly. This allows you to come out from behind your own façade and begin your journey to true self-knowledge.

Concreteness focuses on specifics rather than generalities. When talking about painful feelings, it might seem easier to be vague, but you can’t solve personal problems with impersonal language. Our listeners encourage concreteness by asking you to talk about actual incidents connected to your important life issues so you can explore them fully.

Our listeners know that the most important part of being heard is feeling that you have been completely understood. We are happy to hold up our end of meaningful conversations that help you along the way to personal discovery.