Effective Listening Skills
By learning strong listening skills, you are making an investment in your relationship. Initially, it may seem difficult to change poor habits and improve your listening abilities.
But isn’t your marriage worth it?
So how can you become a good listener? How can you improve your communication and listening abilities?
You can start by following these Ten Rules of Effective Listening Skills:
- STOP TALKING!
You have two ears and one mouth. You should be using them in those same percentages. By listening two-thirds of the time and talking for only one-third, you’ll gather more accurate information in order to form an appropriate opinion.
And that also applies to the voice in your head. If you’re thinking about what to say, you’re not listening to what’s being said. Multi-tasking doesn’t work here. You cannot effectively listen, think and talk at the same time.
- Clear your head. Take it all in.
Clear your mind of distracting thoughts. Focus entirely on what your partner is trying to say.
Also be aware of other cues, such as tone, inflection, pitch, and volume. Sometimes it’s not only what your spouse is saying, but how it’s being said! Observe non-verbal communication such as body language and emotion. This too speaks volumes.
- Clear your environment.
Turn off the TV. Take the phone off the hook. Remove any distractions that will break your concentration.
- Actively Listen.
Show your partner, by your deeds and actions, that you sincerely wish to understand the full message being sent. Face your spouse and maintain eye contact. Show that you’re paying full attention. Try to remain at ease, regardless of the perceived “attack.” And don’t interrupt.
Encourage your partner to continue with subtle head-nods or “Uh-huhs.” Your overall demeanor should be of someone completely interested in understanding the full meaning of the message being sent.
- Be open to all possibilities. Withhold judgment until the end.
Its human nature to want to be “right.” Its also human nature to often be “wrong.” To err is human. Suppress the need to be right and open yourself up to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, you’re actually wrong.
Make sure you’ve heard – and understood – all of the facts before making a judgment call. Your initial reaction may not necessarily be accurate.
- Be empathetic.
Even if you are “right,” you can still be empathetic to your spouse’s position, feelings, and beliefs without invalidating your own. You may not agree with your spouse. But by showing that you’re willing to listen demonstrates your respect and empathy for your spouse.
- Ask questions.
Ask questions to clarify your understanding. Ask open-ended questions. Ask questions without sounding judgmental. But do so without interrupting.
- Control your emotions.
If your partner’s message is causing strong emotions to swell up within you, acknowledge these emotions. But try not to let them impede on your ability to continue.
Communication is difficult when strong emotions are present. Understand that the emotions you are feeling are probably transference from your partner. This means your partner is experiencing the same emotions!
Don’t act on your emotions and don’t let them control your actions. Statements or actions driven by anger, fear, or despair, can exacerbate the issues at hand and result in regret.
- Try to see it through your spouse’s eyes.
As you absorb all of the verbal and non-verbal components of your spouse’s message, try to see things from your spouse’s perspective. Your viewpoint may be different and you may still not agree with your spouse. But seeing the issue through your spouse’s eyes will further your understanding and empathy.
- Listening requires a response, but not necessarily an opinion.
Continue encouraging your partner to vent. Ask questions to solicit more information. Confirm you have understood by restating or paraphrasing what you understand to have been said.
But be very cautious when offering an opinion. Your partner may not be interested in your opinion or perspective…at least not right now. That’s OK. This will likely change as emotions are allayed.
When you practice effective listening skills, you send a strong message to your partner that “you are important to me.” Good listening skills show you care about your partner’s thoughts and feelings.
Listening without being defensive encourages open and honest sharing. When you practice effective communication and listening skills, you strengthen your relationship and establish a strong marital foundation.
Invest in learning strong listening skills and you will see your efforts returned tenfold.
But there’s still more to learn. Click back to The Importance of Communication to acquire additional communication skills.
(Coming Soon: Learn the productive way to fight and resolve marital conflict.)
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