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Active Listening Essential for Wellness Professionals – at Work and Home

After a rough day at work — placing others people’s problems into perspective — you may be faced with communication conflicts at home as well. For that reason, effective communication is a must!

According to Stephen M. Horowitz, Ph.D., who at the time achieved FAWHP status, activelistening is a very important component of communication. Active listening, said Horowitz, "defuses anger by acknowledging the emotion and it allows you to decide whether or not you want to ‘buy into’ someone else’s momentary craziness."

"Most times when people come to you, they’re hostile," said Horowitz during "Managing Conflict at Home and in the Workplace: Strategies for the Next Millennium" at an annual conference of the former Association for Worksite Health Promotion. "Active listening clarifies and allows you to step back ... It should be the first step."

Rather than just responding to what people have said to you, get a feel for what the emotion is that is being expressed in their message. A basic technique offered by Horowitz is to make your response: "You sound (angry, upset, worried) about (this, that, the other)."

Taking the aforementioned approach allows you to:

  • Clarify the content of the communication using the basic format;
  • Verify nonverbal messages;
  • Gather additional information;
  • Provide a genuine personal response; and
  • Promote problem-solving behavior.

There are some behaviors to avoid as well. Those include:

  • Rationalizing;
  • Questioning;
  • Supporting;
  • Defending;
  • Judging;
  • Prying; and
  • Phony or premature supporting.

As a guide, Horowitz offered the following "Commandments of Stress-Free Communication":

  • Thou shalt be nonjudgmental.
  • Thou shalt not give personal advice, e.g., "You should ..."
  • Thou shalt be empathetic.
  • Thou shalt choose to be assertive when appropriate.
  • Thou shalt take ownership of your behaviors and the consequences of your actions.
  • Thou shalt not take responsibility for the other person’s problems, actions or feelings.
  • Thou shalt not interrupt, although you may paraphrase when necessary to ensure understanding.
  • Thou shalt listen to the message, not the emotion.
  • Thou shalt stick with the current situation — don’t bring up the past.

© 2008 Health Resources Publishing