How to be a good listener in a relationship
Many partners complain that they don’t feel heard, or that their partners don’t listen to them. These issues may sound a bit laughable, but they could result in emotional disconnection, resentment, and drifting apart in the long run. Being a good listener, in general, is regarded as one of the most basic communication skills. When you are a good listener, you pay attention to the feelings associated with your partner’s words. But how many of us care about listening skills? In this article, we will provide you with some of the most important skills on how to be a good listener in a relationship. Learning these skills helps you become a better communicator, not to mention having a lasting relationship with your partner. Spare a few moments to figure out these skills.
1. Become an active listener
When listening to your partner, do not let your mind wander elsewhere. Trying to be in the present moment makes your partner feel listened to and cared about. To do so, you should avoid distractions. Put aside your cell phone and distracting thoughts. Give your partner your undivided attention and look at her directly.
Remember that your non-verbal communication can give your partner the impression that you agree with him/her even if you don’t. In his book, Wherever You Go, There You Are, Jon Kabat-Zinn, professor of medicine at the University of Massachusetts, believes that through active listening you are “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”
2. Body language
Never think of other things when s/he is talking. If you feel your mind is distracted, turn your thoughts to your partner and use your body language or some gestures to show that you’re engaged with him/her. you can nod occasionally, smile, and encourage your partner to continue with such words as “yes,” “oh no,” or “uh huh.”
3. Pay attention to your partner
Focus on the words of your partner, not what you are about to say. We have all experienced this situation. Even if we don’t admit it, in most cases, instead of being a good listeners and listening to our partners, we are always looking for an answer to his/her words. Especially when we talk about a problem.
This happens even more intensely if you disagree on almost everything. In this case, you shouldn’t think about your feelings or your response. Focus only on your partner, his/her thoughts, feelings, and ideas.
Your priority is to understand your partner’s point of view. Keep in mind that if you understand what is being said, your answer will be more thoughtful. Communicating is better if you understand his/her point of view. For more information on how to be a good listener in a relationship you can check out the very article on non-judgmental listening.
4. Offer feedback
Remember that your personal assumptions and judgments may affect what you hear. If you want to learn how to be a good listener in a relationship, always remind yourself that your role is to understand what is being said. And, it requires you to ponder on what is being said and try to summarize his/her words repeatedly. “sounds like s/he is saying that…,” or “s/he tries to express….” Are great ways to think of his/her feelings and intentions at the moment. When you understand your partner, then you will realize how to communicate effectively in a relationship.
5. Pause before you speak
There is nothing wrong with using a break. One or two seconds of silence in a conversation is not a bad thing and gives your partner a chance to fully express what s/he means. Instead of answering immediately, wait until your partner is finished.
People tend to pause during a conversation. If you notice your partner’s pause, do not assume that her talk is over. Take a few seconds before you start talking.
If your partner doesn’t speak after a few seconds, you can assume that the s/he has nothing to say.
6. Ask specific questions
Part of hearing is understanding. If you do not understand something, ask. When your partner is finished, you can ask questions if needed. It shows that you listen to him/her and value his/her opinions.
If you want to clarify where s/he stands specifically on the issue, You can ask such questions as “What do you mean when you say…?” or “Is this really what you mean/want?”
Moreover, you can ask questions that encourage discussion. For example, “What do you think about this situation?”
However, you should avoid asking “why” questions in that such questions are judgmental and make your partner defensive. For example, don’t ask, “Why did you decide to accept this?” Instead, ask, “How did you come to this conclusion?”
7. Be empathic
We always see the world through the lens of our own beliefs and experiences. Being empathic helps you understand your partner in that you see the situation from his/her point of view. To develop this skill, you should validate his/her perspective by acknowledging his/her views. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to agree with him/her, but to accept his/her idea as a different way of taking this issue.
If you have difficulty focusing on your partner’s thoughts and feelings, meditation would be of great help.
Doing this mental exercise can tame your wandering mind and help you stay focused. Dedicate 5 to 10 minutes a day to meditation every day. It helps you empty your mind of distracting thoughts and listen to your partner attentively.
What Are the Benefits of being a good listener?
Many partners think that they are all good listeners and there is no need to learn anything on how to be a good listener in a relationship. Don’t forget that such a thinking never lets you become a better listener. Becoming a better listener has to do with being nonjudgmental towards the thoughts or feelings that you might hear about. So, you will become aware of distractions that keep you from listening carefully and pay attention for longer.
The Bottom Line
Although breaking the old habits is hard, but you should do your best to become a good listener in your relationship. You just need to stay focused and pay attention to your partner’s words and feelings. Moreover, you can ask them to clarify their viewpoint if you don’t understand what they are talking about. In this way, you can provide them with your feedback in the form of a question or sentence and encourage them to express themselves. Bear in mind that the most important thing for you, at every stage, is to be nonjudgmental. It takes a lot of determination, but YOU CAN DO IT.