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Most people are not good at listening. While other people are talking, we concentrate on our thoughts, instead of concentrating on what they are saying. Not many people know how much listening can enhance our lives. Jim Peterson states that the very skills that are applied in good communication are applied in organizational offices, in the board room and even in relationships. This book aids in learning to listen and improve relationships whether at places of work or personal relationships.
Jim Peterson highlights the necessity to end the win-lose attitude of modern culture. He emphasizes in his book that our communication, like that in a courtroom usually puts people at variance with each other. He further gives techniques that have been tested over time, of coping with normal land mines of communication.
This paper gives a review of this book. It first gives a summary of the details in the book by looking at chapter after chapter. It then gives a response of my personal connection with the book and a reflection on the lessons learnt from it. An action on Peterson’s book is thereafter given by this paper.
Peterson gives a workable guide to those who are keen in developing their communication ability in many circumstances. He points out the communication problems that many people encounter every day. Peterson then explains what needs to be done to overcome these problems and comprehend what causes a communication breakdown. His flat-brain theory in the first section illustrates how confused and disturbed we get in stressful conditions, why we have a problem listening to others and how we should go about it.
He concludes the first section by explaining how one can get into a tango and how to avoid such situations. He even provides a tool in the form of a poem to aid in the improvement of our listening techniques. In the second section, he introduces a Talker-Listener card. This is a simple, sensible and mobile gem.
It is a design that promotes dispute and idle banter in real dialogue. This card helps people calm down, think clearly and develop cooperation and understanding (Peterson, 2007, p. 25). He further explains how the card can be employed by discussion groups, families and couples to improve their listening abilities.
Section three gives techniques to help people improve skills. Peterson refers to this as “come-alive communication”. The listening techniques that are given in the book can help one improve on their relationships and assist in efficient listening. The insights that he gives in his book provide innovative ways of dealing with our day to day communications and the complex cases of anger, conflict and grief.
Section four and five summarizes the final method. He combines everything in the previous chapters to result to efficient communication. He gives these examples to illustrate how to counter problems and people suffering from miscommunication. He concludes by explaining how good communication skills can make us become great people.
This book made me realize just how poor I am at listening. Memories of avoidable arguments that I have had in my relationships point out to miscommunication as I continued to read this book. As a teacher, I can recall times when I would conclude in my mind what a student want to say before he even completes his answer. I would sometimes give a student a chance to answer a question and know what marks I was going to award him before he is done.
Since I read that book, I make a point of listening and made it easier by being a card carrying talker and listener. Students need to be encouraged to raise their points and ideas on issues raised in class. I hate to think that I might have destroyed their confidence by interrupting them when they answered their questions.
This simply shows how wrong we can be just because we have not stopped to listen. This book is precisely what we require to be able to fit in this society as it helps us understand other people’s emotions. Although the book is a bit insightful, it is quite enjoyable to read. This book helps in changing behaviors of verbal arguments to good communication. The book also has a Talker-Listener card, which gives good practice.
When I walk with this TLC, I make it a point of introducing other people to the listening strategy. It also helps me remember to maintain even the toughest conversations on the right track by listening to others before giving my own opinion and waiting for my turn to speak. This is made easier by listening instead of struggling to win. Most of the time, attention is given in making people good writers and speakers than in becoming good listeners.
This book has focused on the listening part which is the surest way of enhancing communication. Coming to think of it, almost all facets of human life can be enhanced by paying more attention to listening, that is, from important business dealing, to family relations to global relations.
We pay more attention to talking that we have no idea of what we are missing. From this book, it is clear that the most common communication barrier is knowing what the speaker is about to say even before he completes saying it. Peterson also confesses that he is still on the verge of learning. He still goes back to look at these principles most of the time to improve on his listening skills. This, therefore, means that communication is a lifetime journey.
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The more we practice it the better we become. It begins with us and finishes with us. This means that we hold the solutions within us; it makes it even easier when we share the communication techniques in this book with our friends, relatives and work mates.
In essence, good listening is aggressively absorbing what the speaker is conveying, proving that you are interested and thus listening, and giving the speaker feedback to show that his message was well received. Communication entails choosing the correct words to pass the message so that it is taken the way you wanted.
The flat-brain theory illustrates the reason why we find it difficult to hear each other out, why we end up in useless arguments that waste a lot of time, and how good listening is the key to healthy relationships in our lives. It can be very costly when we don’t learn to listen as we might miss out a very important piece of information. Likewise, when people realize that they are not listened to while talking they get offended, and therefore, pull away.
The listening techniques provide innovative ways of taking care of our day to day communications and tough relationships. The Talker-Listener card helps in hearing each other out. This approach will definitely change the lives of people when taken seriously and used. From Peterson’s experience, it is evident that listening is a step by step task that takes time. He is honest about his own problems when it comes to listening.
This is a bit assuring; it helps in assuring the readers that they too will learn how to listen from this. His explanation using the human body is the most interesting part. It draws the reader’s attention as it humorous in its own way. It explains that communication is a give and take situation. You have to listen to be listened to. If we listen to others, we understand what they are saying, therefore, reducing conflicts and misunderstandings.
It is not easy to quietly listen to a conversation especially when the message you are getting is not exactly what you were expecting. In a discussion group, for example, a colleague can raise a point that is entirely out of topic. This makes you tempted to cut him short and interrupt him. According to Peterson, it is not right to cut a speaker short of his conversation. Instead, we are expected to give them there ample time and wait for our time to speak.
This is, in fact, my biggest challenge. This book has made me learn that it is vital to always listen first before we talk and let the other person share their views fully before I can also share mine. Many a times when we are not listening, our mind is usually not in the conversation. This is what Peterson refers to as the “Flat-brain”. This is a situation where one’s emotions interfere with the process of listening (Peterson, 2007, p.10).
These situations sometimes may make one defensive especially by an emotional person. The card is also helpful, by using it I have been able reflect on me communication techniques and improve on them. It has also helped me to express myself clearly to the other person and ask questions where I have not gotten the message. From experience, this reduces miscommunication in a great way. It is so helpful especially in intimate relationships.
Most of these relationships break up due to poor communication between the couples. Assuming what the other couple wanted to say or intended to say makes one make a decision based on their personal understanding. The most terrible part is disrupting the speaker by opposing them without knowing their next statement. This is especially so, in heated debates and discussions. By cutting the speaker short, you’re basically saying that you have no respect for what the speaker is saying.
From my own experience s a teacher as stated above, my students might have had the impression that I lacked respect for them, which was not the case. According to Peterson, a good listener should always have his mind open. When we listen, our minds expand with new thoughts. When we do not listen, our minds only reinforce the notions that we have already. It is, therefore, worth noting that to become a good listener is simply to listen.
Peterson, J.C. (2007). Why Don’t We Listen Better? Communicating & Connecting in Relationships? Tigard, OR: Petersen Publications.