When was the last time you listened to your significant other? I mean really listened. I’m not talking about the kind of listening that you do when your checking your email as your partner is talking to you or while you’re responding to a text. Active listening is something that is hard for many of us to do.
Here’s why it’s so good for your relationship though. It fosters intimate conversation, trust and love. Who wouldn’t want that in a committed relationship?
I know many of you reading this can relate to when someone asks you how you’re doing. You think they’re just asking to be polite, so you politely respond with “I’m fine” and ask in return “how are you?” The reason you likely do this is because you believe the person asking isn’t going to listen to how you’re really doing. They’re not quite prepared to listen to how stressful your morning has been because you were late dropping the kids to school, spilled hot coffee on yourself which led to a wardrobe change and your toddler decided this was the morning to have a meltdown about her breakfast options. Yeah, that’s a lot and requires someone willing to really listen. Imagine how disappointing it would be to share all that with someone and then it suddenly becomes painfully obvious they weren’t really listening.
I’m going to share some simple shifts you can make to become a better listener.
First postpone your own agenda. Shift the focus away from yourself for a few minutes and be willing to enter someone else’s world. Tune into your partner’s world and show genuine interest. It’s not about agreeing with what they have to say. Instead, try to see their world through their eyes, from their perspective, not yours.
Be attentive when you listen. Sometimes all that’s required is attentive listening. It’s very common to feel that you must try to make your partner feel better. Try to resist the temptation and just listen. Show that you understand, ask open- ended questions and avoid making judgments or giving advice. If you feel compelled to give advice, seek to understand first then ask their permission to give advice. Don’t assume that they want or need it. What’s most important is that you communicate empathy and understanding.
Use reflective listening. Once you feel you’ve gained some understanding about how your partner is feeling, reflect it back to them. Witnessing is a crucial part of listening. You witness by sharing with them what you understand in your own words. It lets them know you’re there with them, that they’re not alone. It communicates safety and validation. What can be more loving than that?
For the next week, I’m encouraging you to pay attention to how you currently listen. What are you noticing about your listening skills? If you feel you could benefit from an upgrade, try these strategies to become a better listener. A bonus will be that your relationship won’t be the only one that benefits. Winning!