• CE3

Are you an accidental Dismissive Listener?

Tips on how to become an Emphatic Listener and strengthen relationships


2020 has brought us all some big changes. Now more than ever, its so important to be able to talk about our feelings to help us get through this time. But are you listening correctly?

A Dismissive Listener is not a bad person - let's just make that clear. Your intentions are more than likely good, but your responses may be more damaging than helpful.


The good news: Dismissive listening isn’t a personality, it’s a practice. It can be corrected. The first step is diagnosing the situation. If you use any of these phrases, you may be engaging in dismissive listening.


Keep reading to determine how you’re leading conversations down the wrong road — and what to say instead.



"AWH, DON'T BE UPSET!"

If someone comes to you when they’re upset about something, countering by telling them not to experience their feelings is reductive and dismissive. While you’re a kind person and want to see them happy again as soon as possible, asking them to simply not be upset may make them feel guilty for bringing it up or feel like their emotional experience isn’t valid.


What to say instead:

This phrase reconfirms that you were a safe person to have this conversation with and validates their feelings. It also allows them the space to lead how the conversation progresses.



"I GET IT, ONE TIME...”

While sometimes you really will get what your conversation partner is experiencing, most of the time, you won’t. We all live individual lives, complicated by our personal experiences, identity and personalities. While this phrase feels empathetic when you’re saying it, it may feel patronising to the person on the other side. It also centers your experience over theirs. It’s best to proceed with this route only if you’re asked for similar situations or what you learned from them.


What to say instead:

Instead of assuming you understand what they’re experiencing, repeat back to them your impression of the situation. It centers them, reinforces that you’re listening and helps them progress the conversation in the direction they’d like it to go.



"YOU'LL BE FINE"

If someone comes to you with a problem or difficult situation, telling them that it will all work out isn’t just invalidating, it’s not very helpful, either. You’re a nice person and you want to be encouraging and optimistic, but these words reduce the complicated experience someone might have and also deflects the conversation instead of allowing them space to talk through those emotions. This kills your credibility as a listener.


What to say instead:

To avoid being reductive, reconfirm with someone how you think they’re feeling and how the experience is impacting them. Then, ask how you can help. This centers their experience without reducing it, shows interest in how they foresee the experience continuing to impact them and allows you to expertly diagnose what they’re expecting from the conversation.




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