A lot of couples come into therapy wanting to improve their communication. Everyone knows that a healthy marriage involves healthy communication. There are a lot of factors that go into having better communication and one important one is that of listening.
So what goes into healthy communication for your marriage & how can you improve your communication skills?
Here are 7 ways to become a better listener.
1- Put your stuff on the back burner. Your problems, thoughts and whatever really don’t matter right now (hard to hear it that way but it’s true). This is the other person’s turn to talk with your full attention.
2- Do not interrupt! No matter how wrong you think the other person is (which you shouldn’t be thinking anyways) or that you have something to say at that exact moment to what they just said…. Don’t talk! You’ll get your turn.
3- Listen to understand and NOT to respond ☝now is the time to try to hear what it is the other person is trying to share with you. Try to hear it from their perspective to best understand what it is they are wanting you to know. #4 will also help with this.
4- Listen like it’s the 1st time you’ve heard them talk about this. This allows you to be more attentive & seek to understand what they are saying to you. And you might actually hear something different this time than what you have taken from it in the past.… because you are improving your listening skills!
5- Don’t become defensive. Hopefully the person speaking is using healthy communication to avoid putting you in defense mode but no one is perfect. When we get those boxing gloves on pretty much all rational thinking & healthy listening skills go out the door. Again, try to listen to understand… even if they are crappy at the speaking part.
6- Repeat back what you heard. Not exactly what they said! But what you heard… how you heard what they were expressing. This is an important step many forget. This is also where assumptions come into play & we don’t want to have assumptions. Say to your partner “so if I have this right, you are feeling … because …. and this is what you need ….” Do this even if you think it’s wrong, right, stupid or whatever. Even though in most cases there is no wrong or right when it comes to our feelings.
This gives the other person the chance to say “yes, you heard me” which then makes them feel more cared about and validated (cha ching! Goal reached… you have know graduated from communication skills) and if you didn’t quite get it right, this allows them to know you didn’t understand what it was they were trying to tell you so maybe they can try again but say it a little different. Too many times a person shares, then the other says “okay”, the couple part ways and only come to find out they were on 2 different pages. You must repeat!!!
7- Show that you care. Listen and speak showing your love for this person. You do care about them (at least I hope so) so you want them to feel that. Let them know you are sincere in your feelings about what they are sharing with you. This is someone you love, opening up to you. You want them to feel safe in talking with you.
Showing you care includes steps 1-6… so they all intertwine with each other.
These steps can be used in other situations too. I use this with my kids and you can use it with friends, family members and just about anyone around you that is sharing something with you.