Listening to another person seems like a simple, natural thing. We listen to learn, understand, obtain information, and to get entertained. We provide space and listen when other people share something that is important to them. But really, how good are we at listening?
Active listening redirects your focus from what is going on inside your head to the needs of your partner. How well you listen has a major impact on your relationships with others. There are 5 key factors that can significantly improve your listening skills:
1. Paying attention is one of the most important things in communication. By losing your focus you're losing connection with your partner. Look at your partner directly, disregard distracting thoughts and actions. Forget about your phone. Be present and fully engaged.
2. Show that you're listening through your body language. Smile or use other facial expressions, nod occasionally, make sure your posture is open, and offer verbal confirmation (such as "yes" and "uh huh") to encourage your partner to continue.
3. Providing feedback is important in conversation. Our personal filters, assumptions, judgments, and beliefs can distort what we hear. As a listener, your role is to understand what is being said. This may require you to reflect on what your partner is saying and to ask questions. You can use the following techniques:
- Use paraphrasing. "What I'm hearing is... ," and "Sounds like you are saying... ," are great ways to convey understanding.
- Ask questions to clarify certain points. "What do you mean when you say... ," or "Is this what you mean?"
4. Interrupting is a common problem in many conversations. It frustrates your partner and limits full understanding of the message. Allow your partner to finish each point before asking questions. Don't interrupt with counter arguments.
5. Watch how you respond. Active listening is designed to encourage respect and understanding. Your goal is to look at the other person's point of view and gain information. You add nothing by attacking your partner or otherwise putting him or her down. Be honest and genuine in your response, expressing your opinions respectfully. Treat the other person how you would want to be treated.
Active listening is an important part of addressing difficult topics and finding a solution to a challenging situation. If we want to build a strong relationship with a partner, our ability and commitment to listening attentively and empathically is essential.
Dating & Relationship Coach