relationships, Skills

10 Tips for Active Listening

1. Make eye contact: Most of our communication is non-verbal. Many times we engage in conversation with our loved ones but our eyes are fixed on electronic devices. Start listening simply by starting to make eye contact.

2. Ask for clarification: Sometimes we may not understand what the other person is saying immediately. Pause the conversation and ask the person to repeat what they said.

3. Reflect: Reflection is simply asking the person if what you are understanding is correct. For example, you may say “What I hear you say is________” or “Let me see if I am understanding you correctly, I think you said_________”.

4. Provide feedback (when welcomed): At times the speaker just wants to vent, listen as they speak. Sometimes a speaker may be welcoming towards feedback. Provide feedback by asking questions relevant to the conversation, provide new insights or connections but refrain from advice if not asked.

5. Avoid judgment: A speaker will feel heard if you listen to their entire train of thought before providing your opinion about them or the situation. Listen first, analyze, then reply if need be. Refrain from interrupting.

6. Avoid mind reading: When we are in long-term relationships, it is easy to fall under the assumption that we can finish our partner’s sentences. There are always exceptions to the rule. Don’t anticipate what your partner will say. Make room for your partner to say something you did not expect. Acknowledge, validate, then speak.

7. Give a relevant response: Speakers can tell if you are giving a “canned response” (e.i. “mmmmmh”, “ok” “oh, wow”) versus a genuine response that is connected to the conversation. Be honest.

8. Share a story about yourself only if appropriate: If you are anything like me, you like to find relevance to what someone is saying by connecting it to a personal story. While there is nothing essentially wrong with this, many times a speaker may not feel like they are truly listened to if you interject a conversation with a personal story. Only share a personal story that connects with the individual’s conversation if they person feels misunderstood or alone in their struggle.

9. Avoid planning your response: Have you ever had the answer to someone before they are done speaking? I have! However, this practice ties to listening to respond rather than to understand, which in its nature is not active listening. Allow for the person to finish in order for you to fully understand, then formulate your response. Your response may vary depending on additional pieces of information provided.

10. Pause: If you struggle with listening, learn to pause before you will speak in order for you to fully process the information received and then provide a relevant response.

I hope these tips were helpful! If you continue to struggle with being an active listener or lack communication skills, we can help you at Hope Counseling of Central FL LLC.


Recommended Faith-Based Books

For those who enjoy reading, self-help books can be a therapeutic tool that combined with regular counseling, can provide an extra push in progressing through some of our biggest stressors. Even without attending counseling, reading can provide benefits, such as stress reduction, knowledge, mental stimulation, improved focus and concentration, among others.

If you share the Christian Faith, you can find a list of Hope Counseling’s top 3 recommended faith-based books that can be helpful in your therapeutic process or just in life in general. Even if you don’t share the Christian Faith, these books encompass practical elements that can be implemented in every day life.

present over perfect

Written by Shauna Niequist, Present over Perfect shares about Shauna’s journey of choosing a more simple life and embracing that life that she was meant to live rather than stretching herself to please others.

Recommended for: Individuals who struggle with establishing boundaries,  are consumed by the stress of intense demands, struggle with perfection and self-imposed expectations, and want to find a way to choose and live a more simple life.

Dr. Gary Chapman brings an alternative point of view regarding the way we love. Written in 1995, The 5 Love Languages takes a closer look at how individuals love one another and provides practical tips to apply the concepts discussed on a daily basis.

Recommended for: Couples and individuals who would like to engage in a journey about self-discovery and would like to improve their relationships by understanding how they love and how others around them love them.

Emily Ley is an author, mother and entrepreneur whose mission is to inspire women to live a simple life. Grace not Perfection tells part of Emily’s story in creating a simple life and steps that she took to do so. With sections that allow the reader to journal, this book allows for women to evaluate their lives and create an action plan to simply their lives.

Recommended for: Busy women who feel overwhelmed by their daily responsibilities and would like to develop practical skills to simply their lives.

Grief, Wellness

Stages of Grief

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, grief is defined as “ deep and poignant distress caused by or as if by bereavement”. We tend to associate the word grief with death. However, I have noticed that grief can be associated with loss in general. The loss of a job, divorce, ending a friendship, miscarriage, moving or change in general.

There is no right or wrong way of managing grief. The disclaimer I always use after this statement though is that as we grieve, we should abstain from hurting ourselves or others physically, emotionally and spiritually. KüblerRoss has a model for grieving that has been adapted over time but has helped many understand the feelings they are experiencing after a loss. According to KüblerRoss, individuals experience five stages of grief that can encompass thoughts, feelings and behaviors as an individual processes through their grief. Below is an explanation of each of the stages:

luis-galvez-635869-unsplashDenial or Shock

According to this model, the first stage that an individual experiences is denial or shock. During this stage, it is very typical for someone to try to make sense of the situation. In plain words, it can feel like a “dream like” state. While often times denial tends to have a negative connotation, this stage helps us survive the traumatic impact of the loss momentarily. We can compare denial to that numbing feeling we get when we get physically hurt as the body releases endorphins to be able to respond and move on.


While many of us tend to cringe at the word “anger”, this emotion is necessary in the healing process. We may get angry at God, friends, family, the aftermath of the loss and often times the deceased during this stage. As a result of a loss, there may be many unanswered questions that can lead us to feel like there’s no closure, like we are abandoned, among many other uncomfortable feelings. Blame can be part of this stage too as we try to connect dots between the loss and our reality. It is ok to feel angry for some time. What is important is for us to not allow our anger to get to a point in which we hurt ourselves or someone else whether is emotionally or physically.


During the bargaining stage, we tend to make compromises with either God, a cause or another person. It is common to feel like you would trade places with a deceased or wanting to go back in time to change something about the situation that resulted in the loss. During this stage is common to think that we would do anything to not feel the pain of this loss. Guilt can be closely related to this stage as we can start assuming false responsibility for the situation.


Once an individual has processed through the first three stages, he or she may face their present reality. Becoming aware of such reality can lead to feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, loss, sadness and withdrawal. It may hit you when you least expect it. We can compare the depression stage as the sharp pain that comes when the numbing feeling after being hurt fades. These feeling are valid. Though the word “depression” can make some of us wince, it is a helpful part in our path to healing from grief.


This is the last stage of grief. Acceptance can be confused with “being alright” or “ok” with what happened. However, acceptance is just acknowledging that the loss was real and deciding to continue living despite the loss. There are losses that will never stop hurting. We can compare acceptance to learning to live with chronic pain. Some days the pain feels greater, some days you do not feel the pain at all. However, when we achieve acceptance, we are able to acknowledge the pain and continue moving forward. Acceptance doesn’t mean replacing. If you lost a loved one, that loss is irreplaceable and there is no person in this world that can take that place. Acceptance is learning to readjust, creating new memories, new meaningful relationships, change and growth. We continue living despite the loss.

If you or a loved one has experienced a great loss and is in need of counseling, please contact us at (407) 906-5214 or

Goal Setting, Self-Care, Wellness

Journal Writing Tips

Hello everyone! Thank you for joining Hope Counseling’s Blog. We are going to be posting blogs on a different wellness and mental health topics as well as doing live videos on social media concerning each of the topics we write about. Today we are going to be giving practical journal writing ideas that can enhance your wellness and mental health. Please feel free to comment additional blog ideas!

First let’s define what it is to journal. According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, to journal is to “record of experiences, ideas, or reflections kept regularly for private use”. Simple as that. I used to think that journal writing was necessarily writing every detail of your day. However, it is a powerful tool that you can utilize on a daily basis with several prompts in order to engage in self-reflection and to cope with life in general.

Journal writing is beneficial to our mental health to organize our thoughts, establish clear and specific goals, express feelings that are too difficult to articulate to others, enhance creativity, among other benefits.

Here are some journal writing prompts that can assist you start 2019 in the right path:

  • Write down your SMART goals for 2019 and establish dates in which you are going to accomplish these. Click this link for more information on SMART goals:
  • After you write your SMART goals for 2019, write about the goals that you would like to complete within the next three months. Break down your goals in the categories of finances, health, career, education, family, spirituality, etc.
  • Make a specific plan to accomplish these goals and write down the behaviors or thought patterns you will need to modify in order to accomplish each goal.
  • List five to ten positive affirmations that can motivate you to accomplish your goals for 2019! Click this link for ideas on positive affirmations:

Follow us on Facebook and Intagram @hopecounselingfl for more practical tips on wellness and mental health.