Often my clients come in wanting the big answers like “how can we be happier together” or” how can I keep him or her interested in me?” Often they think they have to learn a complete new skill, buy sexy lingerie, or get a new hairstyle, when everything they need to know to improve their relationships they learned in kindergarten!
Listening Isn’t Just Hearing
Listening is the number one thing both men and women wish their partners did more! But are you one of the many folks out there who can get so caught up in your busy life, that you sometimes find yourself multi-tasking? You might be trying to listen to a friend’s difficulties, but have ten things running through your mind at the same exact time. Like, what will we eat for dinner….who are the Bronco’s playing tomorrow….did I remember to lock the front door when I left the house? Many of us are so busy in our lives and in our heads, that we are rarely fully “present” when we are listening to our friends and families.
Often in my line of work, clients tell me that they have a problem communicating with a loved one. When I work with my clients who complain about struggles with communication, I almost always help them with the basics of listening. Listening is very simple but definitely NOT easy! This is a learned skill and it really works to let others know just how much you do care.
Here are six simple (but not easy!) skills of listening!
6 Skills of Active Listening
2) Look into your partner’s eyes. Give him or her your complete, undivided attention, pay attention to your posture and body language
3) Acknowledge that you are listening by giving verbal and non-verbal encouragers. Give gestures like a head nod or an “uh huh”– do what it takes so that your partner know you are hearing what is being said.
4) Don’t interrupt. Take a breath before responding if a response is even needed.
5) Don’t just think of how to respond. Don’t think of a rebuttal to what is being said and push aside judgement.
6) Mirror back what your partner has said. This could be a simple summary like, “Wow, it sounds like you are saying that your job is stressing you out.” Wait for your partner to acknowledge that you “got it” before responding to the message.
You are now ready to use these skills and try out some active listening. Ask your partner for a practice session. Sit face to face, look into your partner’s eyes and ask him or her to share a problem that they are facing. Breathe. Listen to the problem as it is described to you. Then mirror back to your partner, and ask if you heard correctly; repeat back, from your partner’s viewpoint, the problem as described.
Other Tips of Listening
When you are listening, put aside the urge to solve your partner’s problem. Do not think of your own similar situation. Look at your partner when they speak. Stay engaged. Put cell phones and all distractions away. While your partner is speaking, acknowledge with a nod or say “uh huh.” Reflect back to your partner by asking, “I heard you say …… Is this correct?” Push your own thoughts and judgements aside. Be completely engaged and actively listening to your partner. Do not come up with solutions or arguments. Concentrate.
Be conscious of what the other person is saying. Ask for clarification if needed. Be open. Don’t judge. Your goal is to listen, not solve. When someone feels heard, it is wonderful and validating and my clients tell me it can be the key to a stronger and very beautiful relationship!
Remember, practice, practice, practice.