This week on talk therapy we are digging into the art of listening. While it is true that some people are more natural listeners than others, it is is still an art that we all must work on in order to have thriving relationships and meaningful conversations.

Today we talked about the acronym SOLER when it comes to the art of listening. This is a basic attending skill taught in the book “Skills for Effective Counseling” that one must cultivate in order to help the individual feel heard. Here is the break down of the acronym:

Sit Squarely:

Sitting squarely means you position your body to face the person as if there are parallel lines running from your shoulders to their shoulders. You should have an upright posture, with your back straight and your shoulders back. Sitting squarely communicates that you are present and that you are focusing your attention on him/her. This posture also helps prevent you from getting distracted by peripheral activity.

maintain an Open posture:

Maintaining an open posture means that your arms are at your sides, possibly resting on your thighs, and that both feel are set firmly on the ground. No limbs are to be crossed, as this can communicate being closed or guarded. For many people, this is a very unnatural position, as it leaves them feeling exposed and vulnerable.

at times, Lean in:

There is a time and a place to lean into the conversation. This movement generally takes place as a nonverbal way to close the gap between the two individuals, often taking place when the person’s emotion increases or the story being shared intensifies. It is a nonverbal way of offering reassurance that you are still with them at that moment.

demonstrate appropriate Eye contact:

Eye contact is the most culturally influenced element of S.O.L.E.R and should be treated accordingly. Within Western culture, maintaining steady but not fixated eye contact is a sign of engagement with and respect for the person with whom you are speaking. Conversely, in Native American culture, steady eye contact can be perceived as disrespectful and threatening. Your default, then, should be to maintain eye contact, allowing the person to decide whether or not to break eye contact.


Remember, the more you practice the other four elements, the easier it will get to relax. Learning to care deeply about hearing individuals will inspire you to lean in and do the hard work of making them feel heard.

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. James 1:19

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