We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak -Epictetus
We all want a supportive and loving relationship. The key to this is the feeling that your partner is someone you can turn to for support and comfort. Your partner should be someone who knows your inner world, wishes and dreams, and, not only wants this for you too but cheerleads you on to success.
How do you learn about your partner’s desires, dreams and inner world? Importantly, you need to ask your partner about these things. Check-in with them. More importantly, you then need to sit back and listen!
Often, when I am approached by a couple for counselling to assist with their relationship, one of the biggest areas of difficulty is how the couple is communicating … or not. An easy place to start when improving the communication in your relationship is to learn how to listen.
The couples I see in online therapy consultations are often surprised that one of the key areas I focus on is how to listen. After all, we all listen every day – don’t we? Effective listening is a skill. Most people do not practice active listening, but rather begin forming a reply in their mind while the other person is still talking.
Listen with the intent to understand, not the intent to reply – Stephen Covey
Here are the three key skills of effective listening that I address in online couples therapy:
- Prepare to listen to your partner.
- Shift your focus from you to your partner;
- Delay your own agenda.
2. Tune in to your partner.
- Listen for your partner’s pain or emotion (even if you don’t agree with it);
- See the world from your partner’s point of view;
- Ask open-ended questions and really listen to the response;
- Avoid judgement, criticism, and defensiveness;
- Practice slow breathing while listening to keep yourself calm and focused on your partner.
3. Reflect back what you heard
- This technique involves mirroring back, in your words, what you heard your partner say;
- Reflecting back shows your partner you have heard them and are there for them;
- Acknowledge the emotions you hear – “I can hear how frustrated you are about this”;
- Validate what you hear – “it is understandable that is how you feel”;
- Avoid making suggestions, problem-solving, or offering advice.
Listening is such an important skill to master. And it takes such little effort on our part to engage in listening to the one we love. After all, we all want to know that our special someone cares enough about us to take the time to sit and listen. Really, communication with the ones we love, is sometimes just about being sure of them in our lives – isn’t it?