Good listeners use OARS to steer meaningful conversations



When you seek to understand a person's journey, consider using OARS to steer meaningful conversations, which build a sense of belonging. Wellness Center therapist Adam Dell explains what’s behind the acronym, which originates from the book "Motivational Interviewing, Third Edition" by Stephen Rollnick and William R. Miller.

O: Open-ended questions
People seek to be heard and understood. Open-ended questions encourage people to share. Example: “Could you please tell me more about that?” 

A: Affirmation
Statements of affirmation are not compliments; they are observations that acknowledge the person’s struggles, hard work and strengths. Example: “Last week, I saw you reach out to Julie and loop her in on the project. You are gifted in enhancing team cohesion.”

R: Reflection
Reflect back, almost like a mirror, the emotion you are observing. For example, “I can hear in your voice that injustice was painful to you.”

S: Summary
As you are processing what a person has shared with you, simply summarize for them what they have shared with you. This lets the person know you were listening.

Adam Dell and Lesley Weiss are licensed mental health professionals who work at the Notre Dame Wellness Center. If you or benefit-eligible family members are interested in scheduling an appointment with either of them, call 574-634-9355 to request an initial appointment.