How to Listen When Your Communication Styles Don’t Match

by Mark Goulston

Quick Takes

  • Let those who vent or scream blow off steam
  • Be patient with those who explain or belabor
  • Notice language the speaker uses about strong emotions
  • Ask follow-up questions to help the person process their feelings
  • Check that what they said and what you heard match

Why do people who consider themselves good communicators often fail to actually hear each other? Often, it’s due to a mismatch of styles: To someone who prefers to vent, someone who prefers to explain seems patronizing; explainers experience those who vent as volatile.

This is why so many of us see our conversational counter parts as lecturing, belaboring, talking down to us, or even shaming us (if ...

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