Petersen, J. C. (2007). Why don’t we listen better? Communicating and connecting in relationships. Tigard, OR: Petersen Publications.
James Petersen uses five parts to illustrate the talking and listening process to help us understand a better way to communicate with each other and understand one another in his book, Why don’t we listen better? Communicating and connecting in relationships.
Petersen creates a “Flat-Brain Theory of Emotions” that explains to us how our mind works and what goes on with in us to act the way we do and communicate in the manner that we act. He puts it all together the emotions, the feelings, communication and actions we may have in manner that is expressed through his theory of Flat-Brain. He uses illustrations to get his point across, which he is very creative in showing how it works.
In this part Petersen uses his creative card to get his point across in helping us communicate better. The system of the card is to help us to become better listeners and taking turns talking and listening. The importance is to listen first thoroughly before talking to the partner.
Part three gives basic techniques of listening for us to use and find out which ones work best for our style. It gives various examples of using them in our talking and listening experiences. It explains that there are two levels of communicating: first level is the exchange of information and the second being a deeper level of trusting and expressing our true feelings and spirit.
Part Four and Five
In the final process, Petersen puts it all together to examples how to use the process of talking and listening effectively. He gives examples of how to use his theory of “Flat Brained Syndrome” to overcome issues and people with the syndrome. In the end he shows you how to become a person that good things happen due to having great communication skills.
Communications are a vital part of the human experience and any effort to improve one’s skills is worthwhile. Petersen shares his experiences in growing in the area of listening. It is refreshing to see such openness from an author about his own struggles in a field of which many people would consider him an expert. He is honest in exposing his own flaws and shortcomings in this crucial skill, which gives the reader comfort in knowing that even an expert can have problems.
Petersen uses real world experiences to teach the reader how to handle difficult situations and people. The stories provide practice steps for one to improve listening skills. In Petersen’s concept, improvement in listening skills will result in an overall improvement in relationships. I found his description of the flat brain syndrome very rewarding. To think of communications from the perspective of the stomach, heart, and head is very creative and gives the reader word pictures to which she can easily relate.
Petersen points out that a proper understanding of these relationships goes a long way in the reduction of conflicts. The stomach is considered the place where the feelings are located. The heart is the area where interaction between people occurs. It is the place given for the give and take of relationships. Finally, the head is the place for logic. Here where we process information from the people and environment.
Petersen humorously points out with a picture of what occurs in most conflicts is that the stomach fills with feelings to such a point that it presses the heart upwards. Being forced upwards, the heart compresses the brain against the top of the head thus flattening the brain, which results in the flat brain syndrome. It is this flat brain scenario where the individual is unable to process information, react sensibly or think rationally.
Petersen really finds a way to tap into just about anyone who is reading his book. For me, it was helpful to read about the methods of listening better in relationships you’re your partner or spouse. Because I am in the process of working into a marriage I am seeking to enhance my skills in listening and being a better partner for life. So when I read about the decision-making together in chapter twenty-four it gave me a lot of insight about how I should be handling the situations of making decisions. By using the processes of sharing, negotiating, and closing I have a better understanding of how to handle situations better. Therefore, that was area that shed light for me in the examination of the book and how it could help me in my relationship.
I do understand that listening is very important to help you evolve to the next level and mature and help us as well as others. I do however find that in daily conversations it could become annoying to the other person if you continue to ask questions as a response to them, so I think it may have been over dramatized a bit in illustrating the concept. I do believe as a counselor you do need to ask a lot questions to help the person understand hat they are saying and come to a better conclusion with their own issues.
The book was very insightful in counseling groups and couples. The card that Petersen designed was very creative and I could see it as a helpful tool in counseling couples. The example of the talking stick was a great idea of how the Native Americans communicated in groups to ensure the person was heard without interruptions. An old tradition as such would be very useful in today’s society to ensure everyone received the respect they deserve.
Going beyond the skills taught in the book is where I see my biggest challenges but I do have faith that God can help me over come my lack of empathy and increase being genuine and warm with others. The actions I will take to put the skill I have learned into practice. The important things I have found that will be helpful tools to deal with tense situation will be to use the finger method (p. 90). By using my finger to point at my head for the purpose of thinking, then to the eyes to see and then to the stomach for feeling as a reminder of the process.
Using the card as a reflective tool for dealing with issues and communicating the way we were intended to will also be very helpful. As I talker I will own my problem and express it without accuse, attack, label or judge will be the goal. When it comes to listening I will have to focus on not taking on the problem and owning it. I will try to provide the safety for the person sharing their problem with me. I will try to understand and ask questions to clarify what they are saying without agreeing or disagreeing. I will also try not to advise them but be bias and not take sides so they may feel comfortable with me. By listening I will also need to work on not defending them or their opinions or mine. This is a tough process to change but I am aware now what is the proper way of listening and talking and the changing process has already begun.
Through the process of asking questions I will be able to decode the true meaning that people are trying to get across to me. In my relationship, I will admit my ignorance at times when I don’t completely understand her feelings and I will ask more questions to make her feel understood and that I do want to know her perspective because I do care. I will not try to figure out solutions so much as just listen and understand the feelings that she may have. I do get into trouble in this area because I have often tried to fix the problem rather than just listen and be present with her.
I will also use the method of the double reverse –twist to help me communicate without allowing the other persons flat-brain syndrome from making me flat-brain in the process. I have also added one step that I feel helps me to deal with some one being upset and taking a deep breath to release the steam that can come when people get into heated discussions. This allows me to release pressure in my stomach after I have taken a gulp to avoid saying the first thing that comes to mind when some one is trying to argue.
I realize that this is a very important skill, listening. As well as communication and doing it in a respectful manner that allows you to express as well and receive the information the other person has to share. We all need each other and communicating properly will produce great success in our lives if done properly.