Short, Soft, Slow, Simple

Psychotherapy hinges on the therapist’s ability to listen carefully and respond appropriately.  Since people pay me for my opinions I am happy to share them.  A big part of my job includes knowing when to listen and when to talk.  Sometimes it's helpful for me to give a client a lengthy perspective about what we are discussing.  My goal is for my clients to see themselves or a situation they are dealing with in a new light. 

The famous hockey star Wayne Gretzky once said that “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”  But that doesn’t mean that you should just whack the puck anywhere.  When I am practicing counseling and psychotherapy here at my Atlanta practice I figure I am “taking a shot” every time I speak.  My goal is to always say just the right comment at just the right moment.

It helps me to remember the value of speaking in a way that is “short, soft, slow and simple”.  I recommend this to people as a good rule to follow when dealing with any emotionally intense situation.  When emotions are high it rarely helps to talk for a long time without giving the other person a chance to do the same. The same goes for being loud, talking fast and trying to convey a lot of complex information all at once.  Much of that will just roll off or ‘flood’ the other person's capacity for taking in what you trying to say.

When a few simple words are spoken softly and slowly there is greater opportunity to effectively process and manage whatever is being discussed.


Bill Herring is an Atlanta therapist.  His general psychotherapy and counseling practice for adults has been a mainstay of his professional career.  In addition, he has specialized skills and experience helping people deal with problematic sexual behavior.