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Importance of Listening in Relationships and How to be an Active Listener

By on May 20, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

I’m a professional listener. I help people resolve longstanding, intractable disputes in their personal and professional relationships. As you might imagine, this job is all about communication and helping people understand each other and become understood. And that, of course, starts with listening. Listening is so important in relationships, and that’s true in both our business and our personal lives. A lot of people consider themselves good listeners, but surprisingly few of them have really perfected the fine art of listening and responding effectively. The first thing to remember is that good listeners respond reflectively. This means that when someone tells you something, you respond by restating what they just said, briefly, in your own words, without judgment. Nobody likes to be confronted, so the first thing you might feel when someone addresses you with a problem is a flash of anger. If you respond with anger, you’ve just escalated the situation into a major argument. And that, of course, won’t get either of you any closer to resolving the actual problem. Instead, be the person who sets the stage for a calm discussion. Calmly let the other person know that you hear him by paraphrasing what he is telling you. It’s really hard to yell at someone right after they show you that they are listening and really understand what you’re saying. A good listener keeps the response short and concise, focusing on the heart of the matter. If you consistently practice paraphrasing, you’ll soon develop a sense of what the most important part of the message is, and mirror that back to the other person in your own words. But there’s more to active listening than summarizing what the person is worried or angry about. It’s equally important to let them know that you understand how they feel. And that’s an active listening technique called reflecting feelings. This is similar to paraphrasing because you are mirroring what the person is saying, in a concise way. But this time, the focus is on the person’s emotions, whether they are angry, sad, ambivalent, excited, or something else entirely. You’re not saying you know how they feel, because honestly, none of us can get inside another person’s head and really...

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Introduction to Mediation

By on Jan 11, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Often times when I share with someone what I do, they respond with telling a mediation experience that usually makes me cringe. The story goes like this… My ex and I were ordered to go through mediation when we were splitting up to decide who was getting what and how much time we would have with our kids. We were put in two separate rooms and the mediator would go back and forth from my room to the other. Then my attorney would tell me if this was a good deal or not. I agreed to it, but it really wasn’t what I wanted. It didn’t seem fair but it felt like I had no choice in the matter. This is a common form and outcome of mediation when people are getting divorced. My personal experience was a similar one. But to me, this is not mediation and therefore it is not the style of mediation I practice. There is a component in this style that is missing which is very, very important for both parties to feel the mediation was a success, which I will reveal in just a bit. While I am able to mediate divorcing couples or any dispute, I steer away from mediations where the participants are forced into mediation and those that are divorcing. For one, when someone is forced into mediation by the court it mostly is viewed as a step that is necessary to take before I can get “my day in court,” which results in the participants going through the motions and usually ends with neither party satisfied with the outcome. Secondly, because of my personal experience with ordered mediation, my heart wants to use my skills and style of mediation with couples or people in conflict who want to preserve and save the relationship. I work with couples who want to stop the endless cycle of arguing, save their marriage, keep their family together and learn new communication skills they can use in the future. So what is this very, very important component my clients have in relationship mediation? Self-determination. It is a process in which you choose how you come to an agreement over the issues that are stealing...

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Marriage Counseling Vs. Dispute Resolution

When couples get to a sticking point in their relationships, many assume that the next step should be marriage or couples counseling. But many couples are surprised to find that counseling may not actually be the fastest and most effective way to overcome a conflict and repair their relationship.

Read Brian’s story.


Counseling is a long-term, ongoing strategy designed to examine personal issues that may contribute to unhappy relationships. A counselor is trained to dig into the past, pinpointing and…

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Saving a Marriage

For one blended family, mediation created harmony where once there was anger and hurt. After counseling failed, the newlywed parents came to Sharon Dolak. Together, they learned how to communicate and quickly disign a solution that created a peaceful home for both parents and stepchildren.

Here’s his story ►