Psychiatrists Share the One Secret to Getting Along with Others

Learning the art of listening is the key to better communication that will help all of your relationships.

Do you find yourself frequently getting into spats with your spouse? Butting heads with coworkers? Going to war with your neighbors? If your relationships are filled with angst and arguments, it can rob you of your happiness and make your life miserable. It doesn’t have to be this way.

In 30 years of clinical practice, the psychiatrists at Amen Clinics have helped thousands of couples overcome marital conflict and thousands of other patients learn how to get along better with the people in their lives. And there’s one secret they’ve found that is the most helpful.

Shut up and listen!

In 30 years of clinical practice the psychiatrists at Amen Clinics have helped tens of thousands of patients learn how to get along better with others. And there’s one secret they’ve found that is the most helpful: Shut up and listen! Click To Tweet

According to the team at Amen Clinics, learning the art of listening is the key to better communication that will help all of your relationships. Here’s what you need to know.


1. Practice active listening.

“I hear you saying…,” or active listening, is a technique therapists are taught to increase communication. It forces you to really hear and understand what the other person is saying. This technique involves repeating back what you understand the other person to be saying. In this way, you check with the sender whether the message you received is the one they intended to convey.

Communication often breaks down because of distortions between intention and understanding, especially in emotionally charged encounters. Simply saying, “I hear you saying… Is that what you meant?” can help you avoid misunderstandings. This technique is particularly helpful when you suspect a breakdown in communication.

Different phrases in using this technique might be:

“I heard you say…. Am I right?”

“Did you mean to say…?” 

“I’m not sure I understand what you said. Did you say….?”

“Did I understand you correctly? Are you saying that….?”

“Let me see if I understand what you’re saying to me. You said that…?”

Advantages to “active listening” include:

  • You receive more accurate messages.
  • Misunderstandings are cleared up immediately.
  • You are forced to give your full attention to the other person.
  • Both parties are now responsible for accurate communication.
  • The speaker is likely to be more careful with what they say.
  • It increases your ability to really hear the other person and thus learn from them.
  • It stops you from thinking about what you’re going to say next so that you can really hear what the other person is saying.
  • It increases communication.
  • It tends to cool down conflicts.

2. Listen without judgment.

This can be really tough for some people, but don’t try to prove that others are wrong and you’re right. Let them say their piece and think carefully about how you react to what they’re sharing. Avoid saying things like:

“You shouldn’t feel that way.”

“Get over it.”

“You brought this on yourself.”

“That’s a dumb idea.”

“Don’t be so stupid.”

Diminishing someone else’s feelings, blaming someone, or calling them names is hurtful and can put them on the defensive. It almost guarantees a heated exchange or a rift in the relationship. When listening to others, try to put yourself in their place and use phrases like the following instead.

“That must be challenging for you.”

“I feel for you.”

“It’s a shame that this is happening.”

“Let’s flesh out that idea to see if it could work.”

“Maybe there’s another way to look at this.”

Offering support and letting people know they can open up to you enhances communication and will solidify your relationship.

3. Don’t talk over people.

Stop interrupting and let others finish what they’re saying. If you’re the type who jumps in to complete others’ sentences or to respond to what you think they may say, take a moment to pause. Your brain may be infested with fortune-telling ANTs, automatic negative thoughts that cause you to predict the worst.

Also, when you try to guess what others are going to say, you deny them the chance to fully express themselves. You may think you’re showing an interest in their views, but they may interpret it as you not allowing them to be heard. Sometimes the best thing you can do is say nothing at all and just let the other person speak.

Marital problems and trouble in other relationships can’t wait. During these uncertain times, your mental well-being is more important than ever and waiting until life gets back to “normal” is likely to make your symptoms worsen over time.

At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.


  1. Thank You that helped me.

    Comment by Sharifa Hotchkiss — January 6, 2021 @ 3:52 AM

  2. In school students are taught how to speak in public. There are competitions for the best presentation, pitch and persuasive argumentation. No such emphasis on listening–why not? Kids grow up thinking power and influence goes to the one who states the most convincing position. But the real power is learning how to listen. We teach kids in our entrepreneurship experiences that to “listen for understanding before being understood” is a skill that will serve them lifelong. I teach negotiation and tell my students that bargains are better made when you spend 70% of your time asking questions and hearing the answers and 30% of the time telling others about your own interests. That often requires people to put their ego in their back pocket and sit on it!! Mike Gibbs, Founder Camp BizSmart

    Comment by Michael E Gibbs — January 6, 2021 @ 4:36 AM

  3. Thanks for the good advice.

    Comment by Lois Bucholc — January 6, 2021 @ 5:17 AM

  4. Terrific! Thank you!
    I’m forwarding this to many others.

    Comment by Carol Wolff — January 6, 2021 @ 5:53 AM

  5. Telehealth visit wanted

    Comment by Ellen Rosenberg — January 6, 2021 @ 6:10 AM

  6. I am a physician with 40 years of knowledge and experiences in Human psychology and personality disorders for my own personal GROWTH. I started by reading Sigmund Freud books and many other great educators in our world. I have read all of your books and learned a lot. Well, I want to come to the point that I used to be a great listener. Now I noticed that I became a SCAPEGOAT each time that I listened to them. Therefore, now I learned to listen appropriately. It all depends what want to talk about it. In one of your book, you actually say, Say away from BLAMERS. I love to talk to you. Happy New Year to all of you. Dr. Marie Blair. 516-710-3010.

    Comment by Marie Blair — January 6, 2021 @ 7:33 AM

  7. These skills can and should be taught and continually reinforced in school, college and the workplace. For example:

    The Fast Break training program vastly increases the number of engaged workers with the attributes that employers are looking for:
    Enthusiasm in an industry, specific area of work, or skill
    Create a know-how mindset and taking initiative
    Purposeful about career development and challenges
    Understanding various paths to advancement and how to pursue incentives
    Becoming a self-sufficient and confident young adult
    Committed to the welfare of family, friends and community
    In this 8-week SMI training SMI, inexperienced students emerge as prepared and willing individuals by:
    Working through their personal challenges
    Identifying their learning styles and high-performance patterns in order learn faster, become better team members, select their career paths, and make friends
    Developing emotional intelligence skills and communication techniques to safely and effectively de-escalate challenging behaviors
    Improving two or more grade-levels in both reading and math with the ability to enter college, job-training, or employment without remediation
    Mastering basic computer application skills including, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint

    Comment by Barry E. Stern — January 6, 2021 @ 8:20 AM

  8. This was a very helpful article for me. This is how I distilled it down:
    The 1, 2, 3 of better relationships:
    1. Open your Ears. (Decide to LISTEN to what is being said.)
    2. Open your Heart. (Decide to not JUDGE what is being said.)
    3. Close your Mouth. (Decide to not INTERRUPT.)

    Three helps (open, open, close) I can easily remember and use. Thank you!

    Comment by Maggie — January 6, 2021 @ 8:36 AM

  9. I appreciate the LIST of active listening phrases to use. My husband and I did some counseling and the therapist ONLY offered “I hear you saying…” which was awkward and stiff and just wasn’t working for us. Neither of us really “clicked” with that therapist and we ended up quitting and that lack of flexibility with what phrase we “must use” that was one of the big reasons why.

    Comment by Sarah — January 6, 2021 @ 10:47 AM

  10. Some Great & Interesting Ideas!! I will definitely apply these ideas, and continue striving to become a MUCH BETTER LISTENER!! Thank you!

    Comment by Pam Luddeke — January 6, 2021 @ 12:02 PM

  11. “Don’t talk over people..” absolutely my pet peeve amongst the list. It assumes you know what I’m going to say and you’re more interested in what you have to say. I have experienced people continue to raise their voice until they are shouting for control of the conversation. It’s beyond rude.

    Comment by Sandra — January 6, 2021 @ 12:37 PM

  12. Thank you for your good experience and advice

    Comment by Marlene Alvarez — January 9, 2021 @ 7:59 AM

  13. Thank you for yours interesting topics and advice

    Comment by Marlene Alvarez — January 9, 2021 @ 8:08 AM

  14. I work in healthcare and a nurse supervisor (age <35 yo) actually told me to continue working while staff are talking to me!! What? So i am supposed to “multitask” – listen while typing notes in charts! No thank you! Who does that serve? I do 2 things poorly instead of taking longer to do them correctly. You cannot listen to a co-worker and type unrelated patient notes at same time. Live people in my presence are ALWAYS more important than a non-urgent note. If I need to finish charting, I ask the person to wait a second so i can give them undivided attention. Its respectful. Plain and simple. I notice a lot of younger people in superior positions select their “screens” time and time again- in the middle of discussions with live people! Why must I wait why you check your phone and text your spouse back? Or read an email that could have waited until our meeting was over.? This was drilled into my head in all the communication classes i had in school but were not needed when i switched to nursing. Pity. It’s where we need them the most.

    Comment by Ava — January 11, 2021 @ 3:55 PM

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