In his book Why Don’t We Listen Better?, James C. Peterson underlines the importance of good listening as a possibility to improve the quality of life. The author admits that good communication plays a vital role as a relationship tool in both family and business (Petersen, 2015). There are 25 chapters that are divided into five sections. First, he shares a theoretical and conceptual framework of communication (Part One, “Options in Communicating”). Then, he explains the process of communication on the example of the Talker-Listener Card intervention (Part Two, “The Talker-Listener Process). His next step is to show people how to promote efficient listening by describing several techniques that can be applied either at home or at work (Part Three, “Listening Techniques”). Compared to the previous three sections, the last two chapters are not long, but their goals are critical because Petersen proves the effectiveness of his approaches in family relationships (Part Four, “Using the TLC in Groups”). In his last chapter, he introduces a philosophy of such concepts as empathy, genuineness, and warmth (Part Five, “Concluding Philosophy”). All chapters are related, relying on the author’s family and business experiences.
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“So What?!” This book is not only about the words that should or should not be used in communication. Petersen (2017) underlines the priceless quality of paying dividends because real listening “gets us inside each other, and there seems to be something in such human connection that touches and changes us” (p. 7). As soon as a person loses self-confidence, there is a threat of being surrounded by friends who become enemies. Peterson teaches that instead of being obsessed with searching for the right words, it is better to start listening, ask correct questions, and see the difference between real problems and challenging predicaments. The reader learns that some skills may be inborn, and some skills have to be developed and improved with time.
At this moment, I have already developed several types of relationships with my family, my friends, and my peers. However, I noticed that, during my monologues, not all people were eager to listen to me. Even my blood relatives did not understand my true intentions and interrupted me, making comments or giving recommendations. I clearly remember such phrases as “If I were you” or “You should better.” Sometimes, my words did not reach the audience correctly, and my talks were empty and poorly organized. I could not realize what happened and, more importantly, I did not believe that something has to be changed.
“Me I See Now.” While reading Petersen’s book, I focus on the flat-brain theory of emotions. He says about the necessity to understand how the mix of thinking and feeling affects human conversation and relationships (Petersen, 2017). According to his theory, communication has to be based on the stomach, hear, and head functions being properly identified and developed. It is not enough to be confident in what you are saying and remain open to others (heart functions). It is wrong if rationalizing and decision-making are considered only (head functions). Finally, it is a mistake to rely on emotions and feelings, neglecting other aspects of conversation (stomach functions). Petersen (2017) suggests combining these three functions in every conversation to create a specific type of recognizable language. I was not able to focus on these three aspects in my communication with parents or friends, prioritizing just one of the above-mentioned aspects.
When I look back at my past experiences and have new information in my mind, I feel sorry for my overconfidence, ignorance in understanding people’s actual needs, and my poor listening abilities. Now, I think that they probably wanted to hear my explanations and thoughts, but I was not ready to present everything correctly. Instead of being a talker-listener-observer, I strengthened my conversational skills and missed the necessity to listen in communication.
One of the most valuable lessons I got after reading Petersen’s book is the talker-listener card (TLC). In fact, when I get to Chapter 8, I was interested where the card was and how it looked like. I wanted to see it and think about how to use it in my routine communication. However, the author knew that it was not enough to provide readers with this card but get them properly prepared. So, I had to “listen” to Petersen and his introduction of the intervention. The TLC was defined as “a foldable third person” or a frame that has to be between two people during communication (Petersen, 2015, p. 55). This technique is effective for understanding what roles people play when they make a decision to communicate. This card reminds people how they should work and play together even if different opinions are developed.
There are two main functions – a talker and a listener. Although this information is not new, the “ah-ha” moment was when Petersen discusses the importance of roles’ recognition. To be a talker and take the first step, an individual should figure out if he/she is “most bothered” and has the problem of sharing feelings and thoughts without attacking, labeling, or judging (Petersen, 2015). A listener has to be calm without problems to provide safety and understand without disagreeing or advising (Petersen, 2015). In my case, I like to listen and always think about recommendations and solutions to offer. I expect that a talker needs some help, and I am ready to share an opinion. It is my mistake, and Petersen shows me that a listener must understand but not advise.
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“The Me I Want to See Soon.” It is never easy to admit personal mistakes, and Petersen’s book has become a meaningful rubric for me to learn where I was wrong. The TLC is the approach that improves communication, and, while making notes, the reader may want to become a better listener. Listening without advising or agreeing is a challenge, but Petersen offers many simple steps like para-feeling or hem and haw techniques.
After reading and analyzing Why Don’t We Listen Better?, I feel that I am ready to make some adjustments to my behavior and attitudes toward my role in communication. My aspiration to become more like Christ is not a simple task, but Petersen’s lessons are helpful. I have to learn how to follow Christ’s example and make His characteristics more evident in my life. First of all, I need to know how to listen to other people not to advise or recommend a solution but to give a person a chance to speak out. Many people actually believe that they are good listeners, but most of them fail to see how subjective and concerned they are about others’ words. To behave like Christ, I need to put my selfish ambitions away, and the TLC is the best intervention. There are three simple rules to be followed by a talker and a listener. I will print these two cards and place them within eyeshot not to forget how good communication begins.
“Becoming the Me I Want to Be.” To enjoy the worth of reading, I should remember that Petersen’s book is not a “must-follow” guide but a list of hints for those who need counsel. Therefore, my future steps will be the integration of at least five listening techniques (hem and ham, explore the future, play detective, lead the witness, and admit ignorance) and the evaluation of the flat-brain theory.
Petersen, J. (2015). Why don’t we listen better? Communicating & connecting in relationships (2nd ed.). Petersen Publications.