Do you listen to understand or to reply?
One of the main thing I see that plays one of the biggest roles in healthy relationships is communication. How many people do you hear say that communication is something they struggle with and would be an area in their marriage that they want to improve?
If you are wanting to improve your communication with your wife, husband, partner or even children then this is for you!
Communication can make the biggest difference in resolving disagreements… even getting into disagreements can be avoided with better communication.
Think about conversations you have with your spouse (this can also apply to children & other relationships). During these conversations, how are you listening?
Are you listening to respond or are you listening to be able to understand them… truly understand them, hearing what they are feeling? Be real & honest with yourself! This piece of communication can make all the difference.
Many times, a lot of us get caught up in wanting our side to be heard & making sure the other person will hear it. We want our points of view, opinions, thoughts, emotions, etc. to be paid attention & heard which results in us not truly listen to the other person when they are talking.
When your spouse it talking to you, are you more focused on your thoughts? More focused on what you will say back to each thing they are saying? Are you making your list for your response to them?
If so, then you are listening to reply.
You will get your turn to talk but to improve your communication and become a better listener, put your agenda aside and focus on truly listening. Being able to listen to understand takes time and practice.
Start by trying to do this in your everyday conversations when your mind is in a state to simply focus on it since your emotions aren’t heightened and so you are better prepared for when your emotions are all over the place… which is what happens to a lot of us during a conversation.
When a person is talking… what are you thinking?
Pay attention to what they are saying. Pay attention to the emotions they are sharing with you. Listen to those emotions & to their point of view even if it isn’t the same as yours (more than likely it won’t be and that is OKAY!) When they are done talking, repeat (in your own words) what you heard them say. Sometimes what we hear is completely off from what they are trying to get us to hear… and that is okay! We are different. We think differently, we see things differently… and that is okay! The goal is not to get others to think like you but to understand how others, especially those you care about, think & feel.
Sometimes, when we hear certain things (or if the talker is using attacking words) our emotions can get boiled up & that’s when you need to take a timeout. Let your blood pressure & your emotions come down, gather your thoughts and return when you are both calm. Read more about ‘timeouts’ here. Now you are more likely to be in a state of mind that you can listen clearly to each other to understand how they are feeling, why they are feeling this way & what they need.
The important thing to remember when we are listening is that we want to
LISTEN TO UNDERSTAND …. not to solve, not to judge, not to criticize… but to understand.
There are times our husband, wife, partner or child will want advice or problem solving but most of the time they want someone to listen. They want to feel heard. They want to feel that what they have to say, their thoughts, their opinions, their emotions matter. In many situations, that is all that needs to be done to make things better… LISTEN!
Just listen! Empathize. Sympathize.
This can be hard, especially with kids as they are still learning, they see the world through such a different lens then adults & as adults, we are trying to guide them, correct them, & teach them. But I have found listening to be extremely helpful for my relationship with my kids.
Here is a list of things you can do to become a better listener & improve your communication:
- Put your agenda aside!
- Do not interrupt.
- Do not make assumptions.
- Listen like it is the first time you have ever heard this. Don’t zone out because “you’ve heard it all before.”
- Repeat what you heard (not what they said, what you heard- there is a difference)
- Validate what they said with sincerity showing care & sympathy
So think about this throughout your conversations in your life …. Are you listening to reply or are you listening to understand?