Good communication is at the basis of a healthy relationship. But communication is a skill that needs to be acquired and worked at. While men and women tend to communicate differently, listening is a fundamental part of all good communication.
Being able to listen to what is being said is an important skill. Learning how to listen well could be the single most important thing you can do to maintain a relationship. So how do you listen to what your partner is trying to tell you?
1. Understand What Your Partner is Talking to You About
There are different types of discussions. Sometimes your partner may just be looking to vent. Sometimes you partner may be looking for help finding solutions. Sometimes your partner may just be looking for fun, understanding, and bonding.
Your partner might be talking about chores or sharing their feelings. A good listener should be able to understand if they need to listen or if they are being asked to help find a solution. Trying to solve a solution, when your partner is just looking to vent may lead to more frustrations. Ignoring your partner when they are looking to bond can lead to hurt feelings.
Attentive listening could be the first step towards resolving or averting a crisis. Not being heard can be hurtful, even if they are simply expressing their appreciation.
2. Stop What You Are Doing & Pay Attention
Active listening means that you are doing just that. You should be involved in the communication. Once you realize that your spouse is talking to you, stop what you are doing and listen.
This means no trying to scroll through social media while they talk. This means pausing the T.V. for couple minutes or putting down your book. Talking to your partner shouldn’t be your secondary activity.
You may think that you’re good at giving convincing nods and “uh-huh’s” in all the right places, but I’m going to bet that you’re actually not as good at this as you think you are.
3. Provide Feedback
Sometimes when I’m talking to my partner, he just goes off and starts doing what I asked. He doesn’t acknowledge that he heard, he just get up and starts moving. This may sound like a dream, and I do appreciate his willingness to help, but I often get frustrated because he didn’t acknowledge me at all. I usually end up asking, “Where are you going?” or “What are you doing?” because I had no feedback to let me know if he heard me, or if he’s just getting up to pee.
A simple nod or sure or anything is all it takes to let me know he was listening and that he will help me out when he gets a second. However, in his mind, he doesn’t need to say anything he just needs to do it.
Giving feedback can be as simple as saying yes, uh huh, or go on, or it can be feedback where you actually rephrase what your spouse has said. Giving feedback is a deceptively simple, but extremely effective technique. Listen to what they have said, pause, assimilate, and then let them know what you have understood.
4. Write Down Important Notes
I don’t mean that you should be sitting there with a pen and paper in hand everytime you talk to your spouse, but don’t be afraid to say, “text that to me,” or “just a second I need to write that down,” when your partner is giving information that you don’t trust yourself to remember.
Sometimes when you might want to pause and write stuff down are when going over important dates or activities coming up, when discussing groceries to pick up when you’re out, or those honey-do lists.
And hey, if you know that your partner isn’t the best at remembering and writing things down themselves, you can always make them a list or a text too. If forgetting things is becoming a frustration in your relationship, then the only wrong thing you can do is not doing something to try and fix it.
Being able to reference your notes, instead of forgetting or stressing out trying to remember later, will save you all a lot of unneeded stress.
5. Don’t Interrupt Each Other
Maybe you’re trying to bond by interrupting with your own stories. Maybe you disagree and want to set the record straight. Maybe you’re completely frustrated and don’t want to hear anymore. Whatever the cause, interrupting when your partner is speaking usually doesn’t end well.
Let them have their piece, allow them to fully express themselves, and then have your turn to say what you think. People like to feel heard and validated. A cycle of constantly interrupting each other usually only make both people more frustrated.
6. Try Not to Lose Your Temper & Finish the Conversation
Giving in to temper during a conversation shows that you are responding to your own ego needs. Wait it out and listen properly. When it is your turn, you can express how and why you feel hurt. Getting angry will interrupt communication.
Listen out to the end. Walking out in the middle of a conversation shows a lack of respect for the person who is talking. Make sure that you have understood everything, ask your spouse if they need anything else and check that everything has been resolved before moving on to something else.
This advice is true whether you are in the wrong or the right. Sometimes it takes being the bigger person to effectively communicate in the fight.
I’m not saying that you should let your partner walk all over you, but by trying to remain calm and hear them out when they’re frustrated you will be helping to get to a place where you can both talk more calmly instead of escalating the situation to something worse.
Apologizing is a way of taking responsibility. For many people it’s very difficult to say sorry. Apologizing shows that you are not laying blame and are prepared to collaborate. This demonstrates that you value the relationship more than your pride.
Don’t apologize for the sake of apologizing. Really try to think over what was said and form a sincere apology. It doesn’t have to be eloquent, but it does need to feel genuine.
Apologizing when you don’t mean it will be quickly apparent to your spouse and doesn’t do anyone any good in the long run.
8. Don’t Just Listen, Do
Some people are great listeners. They make you feel heard and understood and say all the right things. May I be so bold as to say they might say exactly what they know you want to hear?
They’ll make all the promises in the world, and you’ll leave smiling at first, but when it comes to actually fulfilling all the things they said they would, they bail. Don’t be this person.
Once you have listened to what is being said and you believe you understand it properly, do what is asked or that you said you’d do. If they’re asking for something you can’t do, then say no. If they need a shoulder to cry on, be present. If its help with the chores, pitch in. If it’s a complaint, try and deal with it.
Listening isn’t enough on it’s own. Your actions need to match your communication as well.