We think we’re good listeners, but are we really listening when someone talks to us? Or are we just waiting for our turn to speak? The latter is why most partners in a relationship don’t even remember what their loved one said to them. Sometimes, you may hear your partner put their point across but remain distracted by the counter-argument you intend to make.
Communication is key in a relationship, and active listening is its crucial counterpart. Paying attention to your partner, reflecting on what they're saying and how they feel, and above all responding with understanding and empathy, are all key components of active listening. According to a study conducted by the University of California, Berkeley, couples who practice active listening are more satisfied with their relationships and experience fewer conflicts than those who don’t.
Before we get into the benefits of active listening, you need to understand what happens when you don't feel heard. Not feeling heard can deteriorate your relationship with your partner, keeping you from feeling like yourself around them, and making you question your worth in the process. Another reason you feel this way is because of your constant need to be right, which forces you to feel like their POV might be more significant than yours. And changing this very thought process is how you can fix the situation, allowing you both to connect on a deeper level.
When your partner is talking, try not to be distracted; focus on them, their words, and their emotions to get a better understanding of their thoughts and feelings. Maintain eye contact and avoid preparing a rebuttal in your head. The goal is to listen.
Show them that you’re listening
The best way to listen is to show that you're listening. Your body language, facial expressions, and gestures must be able to communicate your attention. A simple nod or ‘yes’ goes a long way in letting the other person know that you’ve been actively listening. That said, there’s no reason to do it just to make them feel like you’re listening. Respond in a way that acknowledges their emotions and try to understand their point of view. Treat the other person as they would want to be treated.
Respond, by repeating
Paraphrase what your partner has said to show that you understand their message. This can help to avoid misunderstandings and show your partner that you’re actively participating in the conversation.
Don’t interrupt them or be defensive
Stopping your partner when they’re talking is rude and disrespectful. It not only angers them, but stops you from fully understanding what they’re trying to say. Always allow them to finish. Also, avoid going on the defensive and instead keep a calm mind and understand where they’re coming from, even if you disagree with them. Don’t invalidate their feelings or opinions by ridiculing them. Make it a safe space for them to communicate openly with you, without being shot down.
The benefits of active listening
It improves the way you communicate
Active listening lessens any misunderstandings as you’re asking questions that clarify. It enhances your communication skills as you’re more focused and pay more attention to the person, helping you articulate your thoughts better resulting in asking the questions that are important and thoughtful.
Reduces conflict and improves problem-solving and understanding
By actively listening to what your partner has to say, you gather comprehensive information before can formulate a response and work towards a solution. This helps in understanding the other person’s interests and what’s concerning them. This results in an agreement and a higher chance of compromise that both sides are comfortable with.
You’re now focused on their words and feelings and move a step closer to understanding them. What you’re doing now is comprehending what the other person is saying and not assuming things that could lead to a misunderstanding.
Strengthens emotional connection
Active listening makes you more empathetic towards your partner as you reflect and respond to their emotions. Doing so deepens the emotional connection between partners, improving their physical and emotional bond.
Couples are more likely to open up, share, and trust their partner when they feel heard and understood, leading to better relationships.
Shows immense respect to the partner: Actively listening demonstrates respect for the speaker's opinions and feelings. This validation encourages them to share more openly and honestly, contributing to a sense of worthiness.