Why active listening may help your relationship
Relationships are all about communication. And when you aren't communicating properly, it's easy to feel frustrated, anxious and alone. If you're feeling a void beginning to grow between you and your partner, maybe now is a good time to experiment with active listening.
What is "active listening" exactly?
Active listening is about really and truly listening to what a person is saying. This can be achieved in several ways:
- Using non-verbal sounds or movements to show you are listening, while still permitting the person to speak.
- Repeating or paraphrasing what he says to ensure there are no misunderstandings.
- Asking open-ended questions rather than making statements or giving advice.
- Putting one's own beliefs, thoughts and feelings on hold so as to fully take in your speaker's emotions.
- Where appropriate, accepting and validating that person's emotions.
Why is it important?
We are naturally prone to becoming preocuppied with our own thoughts and feelings. When someone is talking to us, it is all too easy to get distracted and not pay attention closely to what the other person is saying. Rather than listening, we may get distracted by what's going on around us, get caught up in unrelated thoughts or become focused on what we want to say next. This can become particularly damaging to relationships because important pieces of communication can be lost. Using the technique of active listening can reduce misunderstandings, create a safe space for vocalizing feelings and help you and your partner understand each other better.
It eliminates blame
When your partner comes to you with a problem, it's natural to want to find answers and offer advice, but sometimes offering opinions isn't what he needs. In some cases, an avid listener is all he requires to feel better — and that's where active listening can be your best friend. Allowing your partner to talk through the problem and come to a solution on his own ensures that somewhere down the line, he won't feel you told him to do something he was against. Ultimately active listening isn't necessarily about finding answers; it's about creating a safe space in which you can both get things out in the open.
Creating a safe space
Active listening creates a safe space in which one's thoughts and feelings do not come under judgment. This is crucial in a relationship, as you want to be able to talk freely and openly to each other. Take turns being the speaker and the listener so you each have time to get everything that is bothering you on the table.
Active listening is all about being attentive to what the speaker is saying. It allows you to focus entirely on the emotions and experiences of your partner. Rather than planning out how you should respond or what you want to say next, you can remain fully open and engaged. After a few days experimenting with this technique, chances are you'll wonder how you ever got by without it!