Effective communication skills go a long way when building a strong relationship. In fact, it is the foundation of any solid relationship. Ineffective communication is as toxic as corrosive acid. It disrupts your world triggers anxiety, frustration, loneliness and can cause a void between you and your partner.
Active listening is crucial to creating strong bonds within relationships. Most people are of the opinion that they are good listeners when in reality, they simply are not. Many couples will often times find themselves in very different situations that require different approaches and different solutions; in short, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions.
What is Active Listening?
To be an active listener, you must be able to focus, receive and understand what the other person is saying. Take your time to digest the information. Your relationship will be stronger if you help your partner get things off their chest. Let them know that you are listening. That you care and are willing to help them find a solution to the problem.
Active listening eliminates blame and helps prevent arguments from escalating. It is not about who is right or wrong. Rather, it is about coming to an understanding leaving behind ill feelings of anger and frustrations. Active listening can be established through:
• Being present.
• Validating or accepting a person’s emotions.
• Rephrasing what is said to avoid misunderstandings.
• Being supportive.
• Putting your feelings, thoughts, and beliefs on hold to fully and effectively take your partner’s emotions.
• Asking open-ended questions where necessary rather than giving advice or making statements.
• Being empathetic.
You need to be there for your partner. I don’t mean this in the literal sense, rather, show that they have your full focus. Remember that they can read your non-verbal cues as much as you can read theirs. When they want to tell you about their problems, they want your full attention.
You can show that you are attentive by maintaining eye contact. Also, lean towards your partner with an open posture to assure them that they have your full focus. Avoid crossing your arms, leaning back or glancing around the room. Doing this shows a lack of interest in what your partner is saying. Show genuine concern by using a pleasant voice tone, nodding in agreement and smiling once in a while.
Validating or Accepting a Person’s Emotions
Never dismiss people’s emotions. Doing this will break them which makes them cut you off. People want to know that you care about their emotions. Showing interest in their emotions shows that you have a genuine concern for their well-being. When they are talking to you, use non-verbal cues like “I see,” “tell me more,” “how strange” and other statements that will encourage them to open up to you.
Rephrasing What They Say
When your partner is speaking, listen carefully to what they say. Make sure that you grasp what they mean. After doing this, rephrase what they say. Doing so shows them that you are actively listening to what they are saying. This encourages them to continue talking about the issue at stake.
Being supportive should include not interrupting your partner when they speak. Also, never spin the conversation to talk about yourself or change the subject. Trying to influence the conversation by giving advice shows lack of support and concern towards your partner. Be silent and pay close attention to what they say. It is what they want and expects from you. Know when to listen and when to talk. Mostly, listen. Showing your support is an effective listening skill.
Active listening requires asking questions when necessary. A good listener knows the worth of asking questions to clarify information said. Asking questions is a powerful tool that shows your partner that you were listening to what they were saying. It also helps them provide answers to their problems in a way that they’ll think they came up with the solution themselves. It also encourages your partner to talk more about their problems.
Being empathetic entails getting involved. To be empathetic, you have to see your partner’s problems from their point of view. Put yourself in their shoes. At times, the issue might be with you since you have never experienced what they are going through. However, when you see things from their point of view, you will be able to at least feel something in your heart about what they are going through. Being empathetic involves putting your thoughts and believes aside. When you learn to be empathetic, you will have a very strong and successful relationship.
There are times when couples are in disagreement and this is normal. Always remember that active listening is as important as speaking to effectively communicate with your partner. During these disagreements, practice listening instead of planning retaliations or comebacks. Take the time to listen and hear their grievance. The success of your relationship depends on how well we manage our own reactions during such tense times.
A Word to the Wise: Be slow to speak, slow to anger and quick to hear!