How To Actively Listen - 6

There are many variations of active listening available on the internet. Over the next few days I am going to take you through the eight strategies used successfully world-wide by those involved in crisis negotiations.


An I-Message is about you, hence the name.  The main use of this strategy is to confront a behaviour that is impacting on you or that you do not like.  For example if someone is using profanity during the communication or continues to yell at you despite your best efforts to curb the behaviour.

The way it is taught to crisis negotiators is to say “I feel (then say how you are feeling about their behaviour) when you (describe the other persons action or statement) because (why does it impact on you)”. If we use this example for the people who are swearing at you, you would say “I feel frustrated when you swear at me because I am just trying to help”.

In some cultures this would work, it also works well when used in crisis communications but can sound disingenuous and perhaps a little 'weird' in everyday use so you change it to something like “I am having trouble focusing on helping you when you swear at me”. You have said the same thing just phrased it differently. Another option is to say “I can hear that this is important to you, I would like to get to hear more however the swearing is distracting me”.

The reason we use an I-message counters what I have told you previously about focusing on the other person.  The reason for the swap is if you were to start your sentence with the word 'You' it is like starting with the word 'Why', it blames the other person.  "You should stop swearing because I don't like it" will soon get you a hostile response. Always start with the word ‘I’.

Tomorrow we will look at effective pauses and the use of silence, how to stop highlight verbal communication, get people to talk who wouldn't otherwise do so and confronting dishonesty.