“Friends are those rare people who ask how we are, and then wait to hear the answer.” – Ed Cunningham
If that’s true about friends, then what about lovers? Are you in a relationship where you and your partner listen to each other completely? Then you know exactly how powerful that connection feels. If you would like to supercharge your couple, then read on. Listening is perhaps the most loving thing that you can do. “If couples were paying any attention during the past few decades, they should be able to recite the one critical ingredient for a healthy relationship — communication.” That’s how Francine Russo kicks off her recent Time Magazine article. We all know that communication is a super important component of relationship bliss. But did you know that knowledge of partner and life skills are just as important? That’s what recent studies show, and listening is a key part of all three elements. What is listening? It’s a special way of paying attention. When you listen, you’re not just pausing to let someone speak while you compose your next sentence. Instead, you take the time to let the other person know that they’re important by hearing what they
say and responding accordingly to their words, their implied meaning and their feelings. You care about them, so you’re curious about what they have to say. Here’s the truth – your partner is FASCINATING. You never know what he or she is going to say, but you might miss it if you’re focused on you iPhone. Let’s break that down. Michael Rooni suggests that active listening involves seven parts of your body. We know that listening starts with our ears, but what about our eyes and our mouth? Are you making eye contact and looking for nonverbal cues? These are the things that your partner might not say out loud. Maybe they’re telling you verbally that everything’s fine, but their shoulders are tense and they’re shaking their head while they speak. Use your instincts. Are things really all right? You can use your words to ask questions or tell them that they have your full attention. Don’t you love it when they do that for you? Maybe you hold their hand and show them that they have your heart and your full attention? That kind of listening is magnetic and promotes a strong connection. Some people call this process active listening or “active empathetic listening” because, yes, it requires a little extra work. Luckily, it also has huge benefits for both you and your partner. In fact, this one skill can improve all of your relationships and even your entire life. You can start practicing more active listening by paying attention to nonverbal cues, and when you feel comfortable, you can take it to the next level. What does that mean? Well, there are a lot of little things that you can do to move from listening to understanding. For instance, you can repeat what you have heard and ask clarifying questions. This may seem like a redundant step, but it does two important things. First, it tells that speaker that you are actively listening. Second, it confirms that you understand each other, giving the speaker the opportunity to restate their thoughts if they were not clear the first time. Do you ever feel like you and your lover are speaking different languages? Maybe you were raised in different cultures, so certain words have distinctly different connotations for you both. Asking these questions can make conversations much smoother and can even help you avoid an argument. More importantly, it will bring you closer together because each of you will feel understand and connected. It’s amazing how powerful this one small action can be. When you’ve mastered these skills, you might even want to try one last thing – listening with no expectations or judgments. This can be the hardest skill of all, but it’s the one that will bring the greatest benefits. How do you feel when you know that you are safe to say anything at all? Exactly. Giving this gift to your partner allows them to open up to you completely. When you have no judgments or expectations, it is safe for them to be completely honest. Give it a try and let us know how active listening works for you!