Coffee Conversations Ep. 16: Facts and Feelings

June 09, 2022
  • David VanderMolen
  • David VanderMolen
    Learning Sensei

An inherit challenge in listening is to prove to the person speaking to you that you actually heard their message.

This is what makes skillful listening so challenging. It’s not just about the gist of the message, but the actual meaning, context, and emotions contained within their message.

Catching the actual meaning of a person’s message is hard to do if we listen with a “CliffsNotes Filter” turned-on. Maybe we’re distracted – looking at our phones or watching tv – while someone is trying to talk to us. Maybe we’re just not fully paying attention.

Whatever the reason, when we “sort-of” listen to people, we listen just enough to miss a lot of the actual message.

Now, it’s tough to turn-off our brain’s bias to compress and filter what is being said into manageable bites of information for our consumption. But to counter our penchant to filter and compress what others are saying, we can choose to listen skillfully to people, especially if they are experiencing a problem, with the five listening behaviors:

  • We can Attend to the other.
  • We can Acknowledge them and their message.
  • We can offer them Door Openers - those subtle cues or encouraging statements to say more.
  • We can practice Silence too by quieting the mind and the mouth -it’s an internal and external silence.

If these four behaviors are skillfully practiced, we are able to send back a Reflective Response to the one speaking actual proof that the whole of their message (The Facts and Feelings) was received.

To give a Reflective Response is to repeat back in your own words the Facts and Feelings of the speaker and their message. If a person is having a problem, providing them with a Reflective Response serves as proof they were heard. It is an expression of empathy and an echo of their problem-solving skills.


Reflect on this...

  • When and with whom do I tend to listen with my “CliffNotes Filter” turned on?
  • How would improving my practice of the 4th listening skill, Silence, especially the “quieting of my mind,” help me catch the Facts and Feelings in the speaker’s message?”
  • What one action or protocol can I put into place to be able to provide proof to people through a Reflective Respond they have been heard?

David VanderMolen is a former professor in Barry-Wehmiller University and a communication thought leader. You can find all past Coffee Conversations episodes here.

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