“Do what you did in the beginning of a relationship and there won’t be an end.”
- Anthony Robbins
When you start a new relationship, you are swept off your feet – caught up in the thrill, excitement, and lust for your new partner. You see one another through rose colored glasses, seeing only the best in each other, and picturing your lives together as a fairy tale happy ending.
As time passes, you begin to discover the truth. You start to see one another’s flaws and find the smaller annoyances. Some will even argue that in time you begin to fall ‘out of love.’ You look at other couples around you and realize that some are able to keep their love fresh and alive, while others drift apart, ultimately watching their relationship fizzle out. The question is, what keeps the healthy relationships alive?
Relationship expert Linda Bloom, L.C.S.W., co-author of the book ‘Secrets of Great Marriages: Real Truth from Real Couples about Lasting Love,’ explained that happy couples focus on one key skill – Listening! They don’t just listen to the words that their partners are speaking, but go a step deeper listening for the meaning behind their thoughts, allowing their message to reach both their minds and their hearts.
When one partner in the relationship expresses a problem or discomfort in their relationship, their partner doesn’t immediately jump to the defensive. Instead, they carefully listen, allowing themselves to truly comprehend the problem their partner is expressing, and then make an effort to change their behavior where appropriate. They are both focused more on the well being of their relationship than their own, individual needs, wants and desires.
Listening is a skill in and of itself. Like other life skills, you need to make the effort to learn, hone and perfect it over time.
Here are 22 practical tips to help you be a better listener in your relationship:
- Turn off all electronics throughout the course of your conversation (smartphones, tablets, laptops, televisions).
- Don’t jump to conclusions.
- Schedule time with one another to discuss important subjects so that you can eliminate distractions.
- Never try to complete your partner’s sentences.
- Express positive body image – Face your partner, leaning in slightly and showing interest in what they are saying. This will go a long way to show that you are listening to them.
- Respond occasionally in a sincere and interested way, acknowledging that you are engaged listening, such as saying ‘yes,’ ‘I see’ or ‘that makes sense.’
- Always remind yourself that to truly listen to your partner is to love your partner.
- When your partner completes a thought or section of what they are trying to tell you, paraphrase it repeating it back to them. It will show that you are listening, and also allow you to ensure that there is no miscommunication.
- Be patient! When emotions are involved, explanations can sometimes turn into long winded stories that take a long time to get to the real point. Give your partner a chance to get there in their own time.
- Resist the temptation to offer advice unless your partner has asked you to.
- Validate your partner’s feelings. For example, if they are expressing feelings of questioning whether they are appreciated at work a phrase like ‘It sounds like you have put a lot of effort into completing that presentation’ can go a long way.
- If you feel as though you are getting bored with the conversation, don’t just end it and walk away as your partner may still have important information they need to express. Instead, refocus yourself by asking probing questions to encourage them to go deeper.
- Don’t allow others to interrupt your conversation, including pets and children.
- Avoid interrupting your partner.
- Reflect your partner’s feelings. Use statements like ‘You seem sad that your brother is moving to another town further away.’
- Stay quiet and focused. Be careful not to make it seem as though you are trying to push them to finish. Don’t allow your eyes to wander to other things as if you are focusing on something else instead of your partner.
- Commit yourself to listening to your partner rather than trying to force your partner to listen to you.
- Make sure you enter the conversation in the right mindset. You need to be genuinely curious about what your partner is thinking and want to hear what they have to say.
- Thank your partner when they are done sharing with you, telling them that you genuinely appreciate that they opened up to you in this way.
- Listen to hear and understand your partner, rather than just to listen. This means that you need to be fully present, not thinking about what you are doing later that day.
- Ask open ended questions to encourage your partner to go deeper into the topic.
- Congratulate yourself for being a good listener, and allow yourself to take joy in the steps you have taken to move your relationship forward. This is a positive thing, and you should encourage yourself to want to continue taking these steps!