How to Improve Your Relationship With Active Listening
Often when asked about the important factors to relationship success, we mention active listening. Many people may not really understand what this is. In short, it’s how to really hear what the other person is saying. You might think you do that all the time already, but odds are you can do better. Active listening involves a number of components that make it a strong part of feeling accepted and appreciated in a relationship.
In any conversation, whether with your partner or a stranger, you need to listen to what they are saying from their standpoint, not from yours. Each person has their own interior life, just as detailed and intricate as our own, and though we can never enter entirely, we can peek inside. What they say is a window into their world, so accept the invitation to see inside, and look for your partner’s viewpoint. It’s not yours, and you’ll have to let go of your own viewpoint, your place, to find out and understand where they are at.
Active listening is a way to really hear what the other person is saying Click To TweetHere’s some practical advice for doing so. Try to have conversations in a quiet place with no time pressure, because outside events reduce your ability to focus on what is being said. Don’t – this is really important – be preparing a response as you listen. Be open to other possibilities; don’t hear what is being said as incompatible with your position. This calls for empathy. The reality is that there are many choices and interpretations at every point in life; to assume that we have chosen the best and all others must be inferior is to ossify, freeze, become rigid – to be the very opposite of alive.
Allow the complete story to be told by not interrupting. Acknowledge what is being said, but don’t pull judgmental faces, as you risk skewing the narrative. Be present and listen to all the subtleties of what is being said as assiduously as you would seek clues in a mystery movie.
By following these steps in order, you will have the best chance of understanding your partner’s concerns.
- Make Space
Choose an environment that is conducive to communicating, where you will not be interrupted and you can hear each other.
- Be Interested
In order for your partner to feel like they can relax and really open up to you, they have to feel that you are actually interested in what they have to say.
- Remember You Are Both on the Same Side
Relax and enjoy the exchange. You both want the best for each other.
- Be Present
When your mate is speaking, be there, be present with your most loving and supportive energy. Let them feel how much you want to hear what they have to contribute.
- Be Open to Different Thoughts and Ideas
The wonderful thing about being two different people is that you will hear ideas and suggestions that you would not come up with yourself. This can enrich your life in a deep way if you allow it.
- Keep an Empty Mind
Listen without preparing an answer. Try not to be evaluating and judging what is being said. Let it filter into your awareness and allow new ideas to settle before processing the right and wrong of anything.
- Do Not be in a Hurry
To truly listen to your partner, you cannot be aware of a time limit. Anything which takes your attention away from just hearing what is being communicated will interfere with this process.
Hearing your partner’s position fully lets you respond with empathy in a way that moves the conversation forward. We were interviewing a couple the other day, and they told us a story that is a great illustration of this approach.
Elisabeth really wanted to work out things with Bert about how they were going to handle their vacation plans. She asked him when he would have some time for them to figure out some things together. They picked a time when both were free and a place where they were uninterrupted and could hear each other. (There was no drama communicated with the request because they were both really relaxed when they talked about it.)
Elisabeth wanted to share how good she felt after the conversation.
“It was such a good exchange between us. I was able to tell Bert my ideas and concerns without getting interrupted. I could tell he was truly listening to what I had to say. His full attention was on me and what I was saying. He was warm and interested the whole time. It feels so great to be able to share and know the other person is really into hearing your ideas. It always makes me even more interested in what he has to say!”
Many authors define active listening as a two-stage process where the listener repeats back their understanding of what has been said. This is a great technique because it forces the listener to pay close attention to what is being expressed, and it tells the speaker the extent to which they have been heard and how well they have communicated. This is very useful, but in this blog post we have used the term in a more specific fashion and only discussed the listening aspect.
Practicing active listening is a wonderful way to turn every discussion into a source of intimacy and love. Feeling heard and acknowledged creates a profound sense of peace and warmth which will positively affect how you act in all other situations.