Couples that thrive are skilled in the art of attentive listening (also known as committed listening). They allow themselves to be penetrated by each other’s words and feelings. They don’t simply receive information, but allow themselves to be informed by it, and may even change their behavior accordingly.
Creating connection and understanding
When one partner is able to receive and acknowledge the other’s experience, a deeper level of understanding and connection will naturally occur. A willingness to show up and honor one’s partner’s experience can deepen the level of trust and respect present in the relationship. As trust grows, there is often a willingness to reveal more vulnerable feelings in a non-defensive way.
Consider these suggestions in your next conversation:
- Begin with an intention to listen with full attention.
- Try to avoid being hooked by distractions such as intrusive thoughts, external noises, barking dogs, ringing phones, etc., but when they occur (and they usually do) gently bring your attention back to an awareness of what your partner is saying.
- Focus on what your partner is saying words, rather than trying to get him or her to listen to you.
- Resist the temptation to prepare your response or rebuttal and remind yourself to just listen.
- Keep in mind that listening is a form of caring, and that in general most people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
- Set aside agreed upon, designated times to discuss important subjects, and keep your agreements.
- To as a great a degree as possible, hold your conversation in a distraction-free zone by turning off, removing or silencing all electronic devices, and making sure that pets and small children are handled.
- Be an active listener, not a passive hearer. Listening, by actively attending to the words of your partner with an intention to understand, is distinct from hearing, which is receiving or perceiving sound.
- Keep in mind that listening involves more than hearing the words of another but also includes that acknowledgement of other sensory information conveyed through body language, gestures, tone of voice, facial expressions, and changes in breathing rates.
- Practice patience even when your partner may not be getting to the point as quickly as you want them to.
- Try not to interrupt the speaker, even when you think they have misrepresented something. You’ll have your chance to clarify your perspective when they have finished.
- Ask questions that will help you to more fully understand what your partner is saying if you are confused.
- Be curious rather than confrontational.
- Resist the temptation to jump to conclusions.
- Don’t complete each other’s sentences.
- Avoid advice-giving unless it is requested, and even then, keep it to a minimum.
- At the end of the dialogue sincerely thank your partner for their willingness to share their feelings, thoughts, and life with you.
Anyone can do it!
Becoming a world-class listener is a goal that any of us can achieve and the benefits to your relationships are profound. Start practicing today and we guarantee that you’ll start seeing results almost immediately. And the more you practice implementing these suggestions, the easier and more natural it will become. But don’t take our word for it. Go ahead and see for yourself!
Linda Bloom L.C.S.W. has served as psychotherapist and seminar leader practicing relationship counseling almost forty years. Check out her OMTimes Bio.
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