Listening Skills #1: Eye Contact
Making eye contact sounds like such as basic concept. If you live in the Western Hemisphere, you have most likely been taught to make eye contact with whom you are speaking. It is still an important point to remember when having serious discussions with your partner. Remember though, that eye contact doesn’t mean staring into their eyeballs! It should be a natural part of your interactions with your partner.
Listening Skills #2: Be Present
In our modern world, we have some many distractions that break our concentration or steer our attention away from our partners. Granted phones, television, radios, and music players have been around in one form or another for many years (remember cassette tapes?), but the biggest culprit that exists today for distraction is the cell phone. It is so easy to get pulled away by a text message, a social media post, a video, or our favorite music. This means that:
• You will be tempted to read or reply to a message that comes in.
• Your partner, in turn, will become more frustrated with you, damaging not just the conversation, but the relationship too.
She wants to know that you care about what she has to say. So do both of you a favor by turning off your phone and being present.
Listening Skills #3: Don’t Be Defensive!
Sometimes it’s hard to hear what the other person has to say, even if we love them. We may not like hearing hard feedback or criticism. So, we react by interrupting, arguing, or blaming our partner. It may be hard, but restrain yourself from becoming defensive. Try to see things from her point of view and her feelings.
Listening Skills #4: Ask for Clarification
When she does make a point that you find confusing, ask her to clarify. For instance, if she says that you never help out at home, ask if she has any examples. If she says she asked you yesterday to take out the trash and you forgot, that can help you to see things from her perspective. Again, this may not be easy, but it can help you to connect with your partner and understand where she is coming from.
Listening Skills #5: Acknowledge What Was Said
We all want to be heard and understood. When your partner has finished or paused, take a moment to summarize back what she said. You don’t have to sound like a robot, but being able to say back to her what was said helps in two ways:
• Allows you another opportunity to understand where she is coming from.
• Acknowledges to her that you were listening and are internalizing what she said.
Listening Skills #6: Ask How to Move Forward
At the end of the discussion, ask how you can move forward from the conversation. In many cases, all that was needed was time for her to talk and you to listen. Nothing more needs to happen afterward. In other cases, she may be asking you to change a behavior or have more awareness of your actions. Start the dialogue for solving the problem in a way that gets both of your needs met.
Unfortunately, we are not born with top-notch listening skills. Rather, listening can take a lifetime and a lot of trial-and-error to master. However, if you are struggling with, consider talking to a therapist. He or she can help you improve your listening skills and enhance the way you and your partner communicate you care.