1. Listen without Distractions

Listen deeply to your friend/colleague/loved one, without distractions:

  • “One-task” by putting your phone/laptop & other physical distractors away.
  • Position your body toward the other person (if that’s what they’re most comfortable with).
  • Make eye contact when speaking with them.
  • When listening, try to listen only to what the other person is saying. Try not to get distracted with other thoughts.
2. Paraphrase (aka WIG)

WIG = “What I Got.” Simply saying back “what you got”/heard from the other person, without adding interpretation. It is a short phrase (ex. “What I’m getting is that you felt like a failure when you didn’t go for a walk today”).


  • When you WIG, you show that you understand & care about the other person’s point of view.
  • You are not trying to change the way they feel, or problem-solve.
  • As you continue to WIG, their emotional intensity drops.
3. Summarize

When it seems like the other person’s emotional intensity has decreased enough that they can process what you say, it’s time to summarize.


  • Summarizing = a big WIG. Say back the whole story the other person shared, allowing them to add/subtract details.
  • Sometimes you can stop there, other times you can move to problem-solving, together.


Source: 3 steps for managing emotionally intense conversations with patients

Source: 3 steps for managing emotionally intense conversations with patients