Why Don’t We Listen Better? Book Review
Running Head: Book Review Practical Book Review: Why Don’t We Listen Better? By James C. Peterson Angelia Godette Liberty University HSER 508 Practical Book Review: Why Don’t We Listen Better? By James C. Petersen Listening is a very complicated skill that many people do not posses. It requires individuals to reflect and to admit to their flaws. In order to communicate effectively it is important to know when to talk and listen. Peterson’s book is an excellent tool to enhance all types of relationships. SUMMARIZE! Petersen, J. C. (2007). Why don’t we listen better?
Communicating and connecting in relationships. Tigard, OR: Petersen Publications. Peterson’s uses a variety of situation and scenarios to support a theory called the “flat brain theory of emotion. ” Basically the author theorizes that emotion, both positive and negative, delay communication thus shaping relationships. According to Peterson we communicate using our stomach, heart, and brain. Each one affects the ability to recognize what is really happening during communication. He gives examples of how emotions outweighing each other and how they affect our vision, responses, and how we listen.
To understand “flat brain syndrome” he compares unhealthy communication to a courtroom scenario. Courtroom dialogue is very defensive and attack like in nature, each party trying to win. Peterson believes that if are able to properly express our emotions without attacking and listen without becoming defensive it will benefit us in any relationship. Peterson also uses this theory to explain why individuals’ martial, professional, and family issues are never resolved. To listen to each better Peterson discuss a method called TLC (talker, listener card).
He describes the role of the talker and the listener and tips on how to improve in them both areas. Great examples are used to illustrate and apply this method. Communicating without a third party being present to mediate is sometimes difficult. The TLC allows couples to be aware of when they are being “flat-brained”, or letting emotions control their expression. To use this method and have a greater understanding of the book in general you must understand the roles and rules of communication. He discusses the roles and goals of the talker and the listener.
When it is the talkers turn Peterson suggest certain words and phrases to use and not to use to let the other person know how they are feeling. He also stresses the importance of talking without accusing, labeling, attacking or judging. The goal of the listener is to gain understanding and to make the talker feel secure. Peterson reveals the common mistake that most of us make as listeners, which is taking the problem as our own. So the main goal of the listener is not to judge, agree, disagree, advising or defending but to understand (Peterson, 2007).
He gives great examples of how this method can drastically change your relationships and change how you respond and listen to the people in your life. The other half of the book focuses on specific listening skills and how to apply skills read in different settings. One of the chapters talks about basic listening techniques. Peterson suggest that using positive body language, accurate repetition, asking questions and letting talkers know when you do not understand are all apart of having good listening etiquette. He also gives tips on how to listen to in special circumstances.
Peterson uses old folks and their “boring” stories. He suggests that we ask question to reveal something that lies beneath the surface. Making the talking feel valued by the listener and the listener will gain a greater understanding of the talker. Also, he modifies techniques and skills so that they may be used in a group setting. RESPOND! It was very easy to relate topics covered in this book to my personal life. Being a newlywed many of the points he made me think he had been a fly on the wall during most of my husband and I disagreements. The parts of the book about the “flat-brain tango” related to me the most.
My husband and I are both two very defensive people always struggling to get our point of view across. We communicated just like to attorneys in a court room trying to win, as he described in his group. Instead of listening and trying to understand what each other is feeling we jump right into our own emotions. I remember once I told my husband I was sick of him telling me what to do. Automatically he responded by telling all the things I don’t do. We eventually began to attack each other and began to bring up other things about each other that bother us.
It was an extremely frustrating experience. While reading I began to think, “I’m going about this whole communicating and listening thing all wrong”. I began to think how things would have went differently if I would have been educated on the proper ways to express my feelings and listen to his. It was strange but I felt a small feeling of guilt (my stomach speaking of course). I was very anxious to share my new found wisdom with my husband, but decided to wait and maybe lead by example. The “One fish story at time” part of the book reminded of husbands.
He is a very good story teller, but tends to hog the spot light. When we first met we would tell stories from our childhood and I every time I would begin to tell a story he cut me off and begin telling another story of his own. It made me laugh to see much this book attained to me. REFLECT! After reading and listening to Dr. Petersen’s comments I really noticed what an average communicator I was. I also noticed the positive characteristics I posses as a listener and talker. I realized that I listened to my co-workers, family, and friends more than spouse. I attribute this to my “flat-brainitis”.
When talking and listening to my husband I let my emotions override causing to do and so things I regret. Talking and listening to my best friend Devin is much easier. We almost communicate flawlessly. I think it is because Devin and I have a better understanding each other we really do not give each advice. If she calls me telling how her husband is an idiot, I simply listen and ask questions. It’s amazing how differently we communicate with one another. The TLC technique will help my husband and understand each other better. I learned that it is not about agreeing with what the person is saying but understanding how they feel.
We may not use the actually card but we will incorporate the goals of the method when are trying to express ourselves. I will also keep in mind certain phrases and key words when I talk. I was unaware how you could mistake your own feelings by using phrases. For example, the phrase “I feel” is often taken out of context. Many people simply give facts instead of how they feel. I also enjoyed reading the story and situation that Dr. Petersen experienced and how he conducted his self. There was one part of the book where admitted to sometimes forgetting take turns in a conversation.
It was refreshing to hear that it’s okay not being a perfect listener. ACT! I am very lucky to have been exposed to this book. I believe that it is going to help my marriage out tremendously. I know that I can control the situation by controlling my emotions. I can identify when I am communicating with my stomach, heart, or brain. As a result of this information I plan to present and receive feelings in an entirely different manner. Before I use my newly learned skills I plan to practice first. Listen to my husband talk without interrupting during dinner or a road trip.
Asking him questions while he is talking to me so I can uncover something under the surface. I would like to serve as a good example to my husband, family and friends and to gain their trust. The listening without technique it the skill I plan to immediately incorporate to improve my relational style. With the exception of my best friend, I listen to form a rebuttal. This makes it hard for others to want to talk to me because I will always have a response. Once my boss told me that I questioned everything she said, which she thought was a good and bad quality. I will also apply this skill with my husband.
We are the same team there is no reason for me to try to prove him wrong or win an argument. Even if he is unable to change his behavior to become a better communicator, reading this book has taught me how to approach a situation. I will also listen simply for the sake of understanding. This skill will play a major role in helping a friend or counselee. For example, if my friend’s gets fired from her job I will listen to her and allow her suggest solutions to her own problems. By listening without advising I am allowing her to maintain ownership of her dilemma.
I will definitely not say that dreaded phrase “I understand”. This infamous phrase can trigger the nicest people to become angry and upset. Within the structure of my counseling scenario these tools will be placed at the first. Hopefully, when I apply these skills learned from this book it will just as beneficial to those as counsel. I would like to be able to share what I have learned so that others may apply it to their lives and improve their relationships. I have complete confidence that these are the tools for success in communicating and connecting in relationships.