Three Essentials to be Heard and Understood

Three Essentials to be Heard and Understood

One of the greatest needs we have as human being is to be heard and understood.  Dr. Leon F. Seltzer* says that being heard and understood is foundational to feeling loved.  Depression, loneliness, and isolation are all a result of people feeling that they are not being known and understood.

In my book Three Passions of the Soul, I highlight that being loved is our greatest need.  When we feel loved we feel accepted, significant, and secure.  We were created in God’s image and designed for relationship.  Even God himself exists perfectly in relationship, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Connecting with others and being heard and understood is essential to our well-being.

We all can grow in our ability to communicate and connect with others.  A metaphor for communication is a football pass being thrown and caught.  If the pass is dropped for any reason, communication has failed.  Sometimes the fault is with the receiver.  The receiver isn’t paying attention.  They are looking the wrong way, or have run the wrong route.  Perhaps they stumble and fall.  We have all seen a quarterback throw the perfect pass that hits the receiver right in their hands, yet they drop the ball.

On the other hand, if the thrower fails to lead the receiver or throws the football end over end instead of a spiral, the pass becomes difficult to catch regardless of the effort of the receiver.  Whose fault is it when a pass is dropped?  Every situation is different, but the passer and receiver both must work harder on how they go about communicating.  In this blog we are focusing on the passer.  If we desire to be understood and heard, we can do better and make our pass more likely to be caught.

We can do better!  We can grow in our ability to connect with each other effectively.  It will require intentionality and practice.  We have default patterns of communication that lead to drop passes.  I include myself in this truth.  I am typically in a hurry and communicate quickly, directly, and insufficiently.  To use the metaphor of the passer, I through the ball quickly, hard, and end over end.  It’s no wonder that the ball is often dropped.  Sometimes I think my wife hits the ball down intentionally, so it hits the ground.  The way I throw the ball makes her want to drop the ball.  I’m not careful about my tone and don’t look her in the eyes.  I’m growing and learning, but what is required goes against what is my natural style and requires greater focus.  But it is worth it!  I want to be heard and understood.  The benefit to our marriage is immense.

Much of communication failures are rooted in our personality differences.  Relational intelligence teaches us that we don’t all see the world the same way.  Corestrengths gives us language to describe our differences in both our motivation and behaviors.  These have huge implications to how we communicate with one another.

I’m RED and my motivation is to get things done – in a hurry.  I feel good about myself when making a difference by accomplishing things.  My default style of communication is to be direct, brief, and action oriented (tell you what I’m doing or desire to be done).  There isn’t much detail or accuracy in my pass.  You probably won’t hear a lot of feelings either.  I tend to assume I’ve been heard without any meaningful feedback.  This kind of communication tends to work well with other RED people, be not with everyone.

My BLUE wife passes differently.  The ball is thrown very high in the air and I wonder when it will come down so I can reach for it.  In other words, she uses lots of words and sometimes I have a difficult time knowing what is the point.  Therefore, I assume her point or guess so I can move on.  I tend to complete here sentences and thought – because I need to get on with my plans.  When I do this, she feels less valued, heard, and understood.  Maybe she gets mad as well.  Dropping her pass is not endearing.

Here are three essentials to being heard and understood.  If you do these, you are not guaranteed to have a successful pass, but you will increase the likelihood.

  1. Know your default style of communication and how it can be an issue for others. We all have a default style of communication.  I described my RED style above.  It has been said that when talking to REDS, be brief, be bold, be gone.

BLUES tends to communicate with lots of words that are not precise which can be an issue for GREEN and RED.  GREENS may have a hard time hearing what you are trying to say if you use too much emotion, or you lack of facts.  Try to use less words to increase pass completion.

GREENS may need to give more information about how this is important to people so the BLUE people will connect with you.  Don’t get to detailed or you may lose both RED and BLUE.  Try connecting your facts and details with how it impacts results to connect better with RED.

HUBS may need to stay focused and travel fewer rabbit trails.  Stay on topic.

  1. Identify what is most important to the other person. If you know what is most important to the other person, you can adjust your communication to help them listen more attentively.  If speaking to a RED, connect what you are talking about to accomplishing a task or making a difference.  If you are connecting to a GREEN try being accurate and logical.  If you are talking to a HUB, you might consider connecting what you are saying to how it impacts the group or team.


  1. Adjust your style to your audience. When you become aware of your default style and what is important to other people, you will have the wisdom to know how to adjust your pass.  Whether your audience is your boss or your spouse, you will connect when you make the appropriate adjustment.  Even a little adjustment can make a huge difference.  This is even true with children.  Are you a parent?  A teacher?  Children demonstrate differences in personality by ages 3-7.  Some children are very sensitive to maintaining harmony.  This is probably strong BLUE coming through.   If you are very direct with them, they may not connect as well as being indirect and soft.  If they are lining up their toys in order or sorting by size and color or are just very precise with the way they play, you can be sure that strong GREEN is coming through.  Appeal to them with logic and process to connect and get their attention.  If they demonstrate RED at an early age, focus on how they can be most successful.  It is amazing how our ears have filters and hear what is most important to us.


  1. Other issues that can help your pass be caught. There are general principle for better communication that helps with all people.  My wife and I are working harder on communicating after we first have eye to eye contact.  It is amazing how this has helped us to listen and hear what is most important to each other.  It is too easy to talk to one another while one of us is watching the television, scrolling through social media posts, or readying a book.  Another suggestion is to try and get feedback about what the other heard you say.  If they can repeat or paraphrase what you said, you can verify if your pass was caught.  Also, watch your tone, volume, and body language.  These all communicate what you are saying.


Learning new styles of communication takes some practice and may require some experimentation.  If you connect with people, you will see their eyes light up and be more engaged.  I hope you will see more passes caught in the season ahead.

For those of you that want to improve your marital communication, I would highly recommend that you visit a new website that I have been consulting to help couples communicate more effectively.  Dr. Arthur Robertson offers you an online assessment for marriage communication along with tools to help you learn new ways of connecting in healthy ways.  The cost is less than half of one counseling session.  I can’t think of a better investment into your marriage.  Check out the  If you use the discount code “ownersdiscount” you will get 20% off this week.  Also, put the number 1 in front of your name when you register.


Bruce Terpstra

Our President, Dr. Bruce Terpstra, has 36 years of pastoral ministry experience. He is a veteran of 17 years in denominational leadership and developed more than 70 new churches in the New York metro area and has given oversight to almost 400 pastors. He holds a doctorate in Leadership Development and is also the founder of 3KeyCoaching and the author of Three Passions of the Soul.