3 Lessons From I Hear You | Michael Sorensen

The simple secret to great relationships

Jack Yang
5 min readAug 2, 2020
I Hear You: The Surprisingly Simple Skill Behind Extraordinary Relationships

Overall Impression

I bought this short book to read on a flight when I saw it on sale on Amazon. I was not expecting much because I couldn’t find too much information about the author nor was I expecting it to have anything new to teach since the book was so short. However, I was gladly surprised by the simple yet powerful lessons in this book. Once I understand the concepts, I begin to see the patterns everywhere in my daily conversations and I can see the flaws in a lot of the conversations that previously seem perfectly fine before. By putting the strategies taught in the book to use, I was stunned by the results and build deeper relationships with my friends and families. I will include some of the tips that I found most powerful below and, hopefully, they can help you as well.

Score: 4.75/5

Who Should Read it: anyone who wants to improve his/her relationships but don’t want to get too deep into the rhetorical theories


1. Validation: The Forgotten Secret of Communication

As someone who is very interested in effective interpersonal communication, I was often taught by various books and talks that, in order to achieve better relationships, we have to be a great listener. While this is absolutely true, according to the author, this is only half of the story. The “listening” part is often emphasized because it allows you to understand the position of the speaker. However, listening without feedback is not effective. This is when validation comes into the picture.

Very often when people express their concerns and complaints, what they really want is to have their emotions validated. Therefore validation usually has two components: identify a specific emotion and provide justification for that emotion. This enables the other person to feel that they have been heard and understood. In fact, one of the worst things you can do in a conversation is to trivialize the other person’s struggles or frustration, and this is one of the key reasons conversations turn into arguments. I will use my personal example to illustrate this point.

One day a friend of mine complained that she was not invited to her friend’s party. Instead of saying “she probably didn’t mean to do that” or “it’s just a party. It doesn't mean anything”, I remembered the lesson from the book and replied, “yeah, I bet you must feel left out to not be invited, especially to your friend’s party (identify emotion). I would feel the same if I am in your shoes (provide justification).” I wasn't sure what the outcome would be since I didn’t really offer any suggestions or advice but she ends up justifying for her friend saying, “oh she probably didn't mean to” and talks about some nice things her friend did to her recently. I just listened in awe as I witnessed validation doing its magic.

However, there are situations that you cannot understand the emotion of the other person since you might not have experienced that yourself such as family decease, you should validate their emotions by saying “I cannot imagine how devasted you must feel right now” or something similar because misinterpreting the other person’s emotion might be rubbing salts in the wound.

2. Match Their Energy

This is another form of sympathetic listening. You should try to match the state of emotion or energy that the other person is in. For example, if someone is sad because he/she recently broke up, you should not talk with the same energy as if you are talking with someone who just got a promotion. By matching the other person’s energy, you will be able better able to put yourself into the shoes of the other person. When the other person is happy, you should smile and laugh more. When the other person is sad, you should be more compassionate and speak in a softer tone. I have a personal counterexample that I recently came across.

A few months ago, I got a job offer and I told my roommate the good news in excitement. He was watching TV and just replied “good for you” and buried himself back into the show he was watching. At the moment, I felt a little disrespected and my original excitement was diminished.

3. The Magic Formula

The magic formula to a good conversation is: listen, validation, offer advice (if appropriate), and validate again. We already touched on the first two parts: listen and validation. The third part is a little tricky because it is not often necessary. Sometimes people complain just to get their emotions validated and are not particularly looking for any solution. In this case, when you are unsure, you should gently ask the other person if he/she needs any suggestions. If the answer is positive, you try to frame your advice as to your personal opinion by starting with “I think…” because otherwise, the other person might interpret it as an accusation rather than a helpful comment. If you end up giving the other person advice, you should validate their emotions again to make sure the conversation ends in a positive, uplifting note. If the other person doesn’t need your suggestion, you just simply need to validate their emotion again since the purpose of their conversation is to make themselves heard.

Here is an example that I recently came across. My friend was complaining to me that her boss keeps giving her more work to do while she has already completed her tasks. I first listened sympathetically and understood that her pain points. Then I validated her struggle, “yeah it must be frustrating. You have already done your part but more work just keeps on coming. Would you like to hear my advice?” After I got an affirmative response, I said “I think your boss sees you as a competent employee and trusts you. I think it would be a good idea for you to talk to your boss about this and see why he keeps on giving extra work. Again, I totally understand that you must feel stressed as you feel like the upcoming work is endless and I hope you can solve this.”