Dean Drobot/Shutterstock
Source: Dean Drobot/Shutterstock

Linda: Happy couples are skilled in the art of attentive listening. They allow themselves to be penetrated by each other’s words and feelings. They don’t simply receive information, but are informed by it, and frequently change their behavior accordingly. When one partner expresses discomfort in response to the other’s request for more closeness, a simple remedy for bridging the distance between them is to institute periods of committed listening. It can make all the difference.

When a partner is able to patiently accept the other’s feelings, opinions, and desires, and is able to override his (or her) own impulse to be in the spotlight, the relationship will thrive. His willingness to show up to honor his partner’s needs deepens the level of trust and respect that they hold for each other. As trust grows, there is a willingness to reveal even the most tender emotions. Here are some practical tips for becoming a black belt listener:

  1. Remember that listening is love.
  2. Make up your mind that rather than trying to get your partner to listen to you, you are committed to listening more attentively to him or her.
  3. Agreeing on designated times to discuss important subjects is always a good idea.
  4. Don’t allow others (children, the dog, telephone, etc.) to interrupt the flow of the conversation.
  5. The quieter you become the more you can hear. Being fully present with no distractions reassures your partner that you care. When you stop everything you are doing, to be as quiet and still as you can to give him or her your full attention, the results start to roll in. You must be present to win.
  6. Turn off any tech devices (laptop, cell phone, tablet, TV) and keep them off throughout the conversation.
  7. Body language, such as fully facing each other and periodically leaning in towards your partner, shows your interest.
  8. Practice patience even when he or she may not be getting to the point as quickly as you may want.
  9. When you restrain yourself from interrupting, the speaker feels your respect.
  10. Being genuinely curious to know your partner more deeply is likely to draw him or her out to communicate more with you.
  11. Ask clarifying questions designed to prompt the speaker to go deeper into his or her experience: “Tell me more.”
  12. Resist the temptation to jump to conclusions.
  13. Completing your partner's sentence is invasive and intrusive, and not respectful.
  14. A few sincere and well-placed words—yes, uh-huh, really, I see, that makes sense, wow—show your involvement and interest.
  15. Periodically paraphrasing, in your own words, what you are hearing shows you are right with your partner and are understanding his or her communication. You also get a chance to have any misunderstandings corrected.
  16. You may feel tempted to offer advice, but it is much more powerful if you ask the kind of questions that will allow your partner to draw his or her own conclusions.
  17. If you notice that you are feeling bored, rather than stopping the conversation or changing the subject, see if your questions can take the conversation to a deeper, more-feeling level to have an interchange with heart and meaning.
  18. Showing love by what we do and say is only one way to do it. Sometimes we show love by what we don’t do and say. Being quiet to show our care with committed listening may be just the method to take the well-being of the relationship to a higher level.
  19. Sincerely thank your partner for his or her willingness to share these feelings, thoughts, and life with you.
  20. Congratulate yourself as you become a better listener and enjoy the trust that your attentive listening builds.

And remember to enjoy the process.

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