Home Perspectives Advice Listening is the key to effective communication

Listening is the key to effective communication

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From left, Ontario PC Leader Doug Ford, Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. (Doug Ford/cc-by-sa-2.0/Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade/CC BY 3.0 AU/EK Park/Ontario NDP/CC BY 2.0)

Dear Ella,

My dear friend Andrea and I do not agree when it comes to politics and we’ve made a pact not to discuss that topic. Unfortunately, I have no control over what Andrea posts on social media. I have never shared, liked or retweeted any of her political posts. I simply seethe in silence.

During the Ontario election, I posted an article and she attacked me publicly. She didn’t attack the article, she attacked me. I was really hurt. I blocked her from seeing any of my accounts and have not answered her emails or voice messages.

Why does politics transform otherwise normal, intelligent people into bullies who insist their way is the only way? My heart is broken and I fear we will never get back to the friendship we once had.

Election Fallout

Dear Election Fallout,

A computer screen empowers some people to the point of cyberbullying. This term is not exclusive to teens. Adults have perfected it and elections are perfect examples. People don’t realize that their words have consequences.

Some people believe that their way of thinking is not only the right way, but the only way. We have become a society of talkers and preachers, instead of listeners. Listening is a skill that requires a lot of practice and patience. It’s a skill that can be learned, but most people, especially opinionated people, prefer to hear themselves, rather than listen to others. No one has the right to tell anyone how to vote, how to feel or what to research – no one!

People struggle with real problems every day and people vote based on their conscience, their hearts and the hopes of solving whatever problems are happening in their own backyards.

In both this election and the one in the U.S., people were surprised at the outcome because they were doing a lot of talking and very little listening.

You and Andrea have been lifetime friends and you need to fix this. Politics is not a reason to end a friendship. Agree to disagree. If the topic is a hot-button issue for one or both of you, leave it alone.

You both need to hone your listening skills. Don’t formulate your next thought while Andrea is speaking. Concentrate on what she is saying. Friendships need boundaries that must be respected by both parties.

Make up, because life’s too short.


Dear Ella,

My brother-in-law Max is a constant drain on my energy. He’s a know-it-all: he knows my job better than I do, he knows how to invest better than I do. Yet, in my opinion, he knows nothing. He drove me nuts throughout the recent Ontario election campaign. Here’s a guy who’s 10 years older than me, has been retired for over 20 years, sits at home most days that he’s not on an outing to Costco, collects a very nice pension, has all his interactions on Facebook, yet he knows everything there is to know?

I wish I could avoid him altogether. How do I handle a guy like this?

Aggravated Relative

Dear Aggravated Relative,

Your brother-in-law is using you to make himself feel like he is still relevant. It’s definitely annoying, but also kind of sad. Max is probably feeling insecure and maybe lonely and needs to prove that he is still worthy and very much in touch with the world that you live in. On Facebook, there are very few consequences of what he posts, other than comments that may be unfavourable. However, when you come in, he has a real person to spar with, someone who he respects and may be a little envious of. For Max, an argument with you makes him feel alive. It’s a way for him to still feel connected.

This behaviour may be annoying to you, but it could be the highlight of his week. Try changing the subject to something a little lighter than politics, work or investing. If you know he’s using you to get through what would otherwise be a lonely, boring day, maybe try to look at the situation differently.