When you learn how to truly listen to your partner, you unlock a kind of magic that makes being in a relationship feel so much better. This is because you begin to grow a deep and meaningful bond with your partner, helping to make difficult conversations become easier and more productive. This article explores what the true art of "listening" really is, and offers you some practical advice on how to incorporate true listening into your relationship, so that you can start enjoying the benefits of a closer bond straight away.
What is The True Art of Listening?
Listening seems like the most basic of things. It is difficult to understand it when someone declares in frustration that they are not being listened to - if they have said something and you heard it, surely you were listening - right? Well no, not always.
Hearing is not always the same thing as listening. You may be really good at being quiet while someone else does all of the talking for example, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you are being a good listener. Listening is an active skill and most people listen passively, and focus mainly n their own agenda.
Firstly, in order to actively listen to someone you have to listen to what they want to express to you, and put your own agenda to one side until it is your turn to respond. Often people approach a discussion with a strong viewpoint already formed in their mind, which makes it very difficult to truly hear what the other person is saying.
Secondly, listening is about acknowledging and understanding the other person's viewpoint, making sure that they know you have taken the time to connect with them on the level that are at in that moment, and genuinely understand what they are saying before you go on to offer your own viewpoint.
When you take the time to listen properly and make sure the other person feels heard, you slow the conversation down and stop that person from going into the dreaded defence mode. Once a person slips over into defence it is very unlikely that they will be able to truly hear you, because their own agenda is on overdrive. If you are able to slow the pace of the discussion down so that nobody is panicking that they aren't going to get their penny's worth in, it becomes easier to communicate with each other how you both feel, and it is easier for both of you to truly listen and hear what each other has to say.
Why is Listening So Important in Relationships?
Being properly heard and acknowledged allows you to relax and trust more. That's why when you go to see your GP they go out of their way to listen to everything you have to tell them, no matter what it is, before they start giving their input, and that makes you feel like you are in safe hands. It is the same principle in relationships. We all just want to feel valued and cared about after all.
Listening is especially important in relationships because it promotes caring, sharing and equality. Everyone plays an important role in the relationship and therefore everyone has the right to be heard, and for thoughts and opinions to be acknowledged and valued. When you don't listen properly to your partner you break down the trust that there is between you, and you damage your bond.
Listening in relationships is also valuable because you can learn a lot if you take the time to listen, not only about your partner and the relationship, but also about yourself and how other people perceive you. Taking every opportunity to learn more about yourself makes you a fair and level headed person who is able to face conflicts confidently and with ease. You will be stronger because of it, and so will your relationship. You will also become a role model to your friends, and indeed to your partner. Everyone respects a person who has all of these skills and attributes.
5 Simple Ways to Start Mastering the True Art of Listening Right Now!
If you want to become a better person in life and improve not only your romantic relationship, but all relationships, with family, friends, work colleagues and more, here are 5 tips to help you start improving your listening skills immediately.
- Eye Contact is Key - When you avoid eye contact people perceive you as being shifty and untrustworthy. When you have a conversation, discussion, debate or a more heated row with somebody, if you don't give eye contact when they are talking to you they will assume that you are not truly listening to them, even if you are. So make a point of establishing and maintaining eye contact. Also try to be conscious of how you look at the other person. Nobody wants to be aggressively eyeballed during a disagreement!
- Make Sounds - I know it sounds a bit odd to say this, but if you don't make sounds while someone is talking, describing, explaining something to you, and instead you just stay completely silent until they have finished, they will wonder if you have completely switched off because they have bored you to death. A few mhmms and yeahs go a long way in reassuring someone that you are still with them, and also help to establish whether or not you are in agreement with what the person in saying.
- Don't Interrupt - People can get very frustrated if they are trying to make a point and they keep getting interrupted. It is especially annoying if the person has interrupted you to say something that you were just coming to say yourself, if only they had let you finish. It can be difficult to resist the temptation to interrupt, especially if you have a short attention span and tend to forget things quickly. The best way to listen and communicate effectively is to let the person finish what they have to say, listen carefully throughout, and try not to think about your response until they have actually stopped talking - otherwise you will simply distract yourself and things can get confusing for both of you. You also don't want to miss any of the person's points, so let it all process in your mind before thinking about how you want to respond to it.
- Ask Questions - The best way to make sure that you have listened properly and understood exactly what the other person was trying to say, is to simply ask questions. Ask questions if you don't understand something they have said. Ask questions to verify that what you think they are saying is correct. If you don't agree with what they have said, ask questions to find out why they feel the way that they do and then ask them what they think about what you think. Asking questions is the most effective way to diffuse any sense of confrontation. It makes you sound much more flexible and puts you on the same side as the person you are talking with.
- Conclude the Conversation Positively - When the conversation comes to an end it is your final chance to emphasis the fact that you have been a good listener, and maintain your bond even if you had to agree to disagree. Concluding your conversation on a positive note means providing reassurance that you get the other person's point of view, even if you are having difficulty agreeing with them. You can even go as far as to thank them for their input - as long as in context in doesn't sound patronising! If they feel that you genuinely appreciate what they have had to say on some level, similar conversations in the future will feel even easier, and your bond will strengthen even more.
How Can You Get Your Partner to Listen To You?
It's all very well to practice good listening yourself, but what if your partner isn't a good listener? Surely you deserve to be heard too? Absolutely! If you are having trouble getting your partner to practice good listening habits, try these tips to get them listening better without even realising it.
- Establish a Physical Connection - Sometimes a simple, gentle touch can help a person to soften and relax just enough to connect with you and be able to hear what you are saying. If the situation allows for it, try gently taking hold of your partner's hands and look into their eyes before saying something kind like "I want to understand" or "This is really difficult isn't it". Being kind reminds the person that you are on their side, and also that they are on yours.
- Ask Permission to Give Your Opinion - Obviously nobody needs permission to talk or give an opinion, but sometimes, especially if things are getting heated or the other person is too wrapped up in their own agenda, asking something like "Can I tell you what I think about that?" just stops them in their tracks for a moment. If you have asked them essentially to listen to something specific that you want to say, and they have agreed, then they are more likely to actually stop and listen.
- Take a Breather - If you feel like the other person is truly ignoring your input, be honest and tell them that you don't feel like they are able to really hear what you are trying to say right now. Then suggest that you both have a break from the conversation and come back to it a bit later. This will allow you both some time to digest what has been said and think about how you really feel about it all. When you come back to the conversation later on, you should both feel calmer and more objective, and more ready to listen.
Always remember that strong relationships are built on strong foundations and balance. Listening is a great opportunity to strengthen the bonds you are creating with your partner, to help them feel valued and more close to you.