3 Essential Listening Skills to Improve Your Relationship
Poor communication is one of the most common answers we get from clients about why they are seeking therapy. Good communication is one of the most important aspects of a healthy relationship. When both partners understand how to communicate properly, they feel loved, connected and secure. But when effective communication is lacking, both people can become defensive, and the relationship can be mired down in distrust, misunderstanding and resentments.
When couples are hitting rock bottom, it’s important they relearn critical communication skills. While it’s important to learn how to say things properly it’s even more important to learn how to truly listen to our partners and make them feel fully heard.
If you find you and your partner are struggling in understanding each other, below are three essential listening skills that can help improve your communication.
- Validate Your Partner’s Feelings
To validate your partner means to understand what they are saying and feeling from their point of view. This DOES NOT mean you have to AGREE with them or even that you would feel or react the same way as them in a similar situation. It simply means you can see their point.
When responding to something they said, you can validate them by saying something like, “That makes sense because…” or “I can see how you might think or feel…”
You may not always understand your partner’s point of view. In these instances, it’s helpful to ask for more information in a way that is positive and inviting, not negative or defensive. This could sound like “Can you tell me more about…” or “help me understand this further…” instead of “I don’t understand what you mean.”
- Paraphrase what they are saying
When we paraphrase we convey our partners point back to them in our own words. By using your own words to identifying the essence of what your partner is saying, you are showing them that you truly get them. Yes, it can feel a bit awkward at first, but it is an incredibly effective technique.
When you paraphrase what your partner has said, you may start your response with something like, “I hear you saying…” or “It sounds like what you’re saying is…”
By starting off with this type of language, it allows you to slow down, process what your partner is saying without reacting and fully focus on them instead of on your next counter point. The longer you practice this skill, the more you will actually hear what your partner says and understand how they feel.
- Empathize With Your Partner
The final step to hearing your partner is recognizing the emotions they are experiencing in the moment. This will require you go deeper than thoughts and head into the vulnerable territory of feelings. I often encourage clients to tap into a time that they felt the same feelings as their partner so that they can better relate. You will want to use phrases like, “It sounds like you were feeling really upset when….” Or “I can imagine you felt hurt…”
Empathizing is extremely important because it shows your partner that how they feel matters to you. Click here for a great video by Brene Brown on empathy. I often share it in the office to help clients get tangible experience of what empathy is and isn’t.
Though it will take some time to get the hang of these new listening skills, the effort is worth it. And remember, when your partner practices these same skills, you will feel equally loved and respected!
Some couples may find they need a bit of help from a neutral third party to fully master these skills. If that describes you than I encourage you to contact us today to set up your initial couples therapy appointment.