How to Be A Better Listener in a Relationship

How to Be A Better Listener in a Relationship

Communication in relationships is everything. We have to be able to communicate clearly in order to be heard by our partners, which is the way we stay truly connected and in tune with them.

When we’ve been in relationships for a while, we can fall into routines or unhelpful patterns without even realizing. Effective communication requires consistent attention and effort.

While it’s natural to focus on actively communicating and feeling heard, it’s equally important that members of a relationship learn to listen well. In fact, many couples get stuck in their conflicts because both are unwilling or unable to listen or hear one another.

When couples learn to actively listen and respond to the other, they open the possibility to move forward from conflict. Effective listening and responding are also foundational components of a secure attachment with a partner. Anyone in a relationship should strive to be a good listener to your partner.

The reality is, listening when we don’t feel listened to is difficult. However, both partners need to be willing to move closer to each other for either to get anywhere. I’m going to share practical tips and strategies for how each partner can be a better listener in the relationship and sharpen their listening skills.

how to be a better listener in a relationship

Communication isn’t about what is said; it’s about what is heard. Listen to learn and enter important conversations with your partner with the goal of hearing their perspective and gaining increased understanding of their experience.

With that foundation in mind, here are some strategies to demonstrate active listening:

Diving into difficult conversations is challenging enough, without feeling like the person that you need to communicate with isn’t interested enough to pay attention to you.

For effective communication, designate agreed-upon times that you will focus on the topic at hand, or confirm each of you are not busy and can move your attention to the conversation. Focus on your partner.

Make sure to turn off the television, silence the cell phones, and mute any other potential distractions that could pull you away from the conversation at hand. Giving undivided attention sets the foundation for the conversation.

clean living room

Research has shown that on average, 55% of communication is nonverbal (e.g. body language, tone of voice, etc.). This means that what you don’t say, actually communicates more than what you do say!

Read your partner’s non-verbal cues, and show your engagement with your own. Use eye contact, nod to show understanding, and lean in to express your interest.

When verbal and nonverbal communication are mismatched, confusion and conflict can ensue.

How to Be A Better Listener in a Relationship

Listen to your partner’s perspective with the goal of understanding and try to refrain from expressing judgement. Remember, your goal is to listen and understand. If you judge or criticize your partner, they are likely to stop sharing or become defensive, which will keep both of you stuck.

Try to not take their perspective personally and avoid jumping in while they are sharing. Instead, give them the space to express themself, knowing that you will have your turn to do so as well. Allow their perspective to exist even if it contrasts with your own. Try not to get caught up if you don’t agree with them.

How to Be A Better Listener in a Relationship

To demonstrate interest in your partner’s experience, ask open ended questions. You can ask them questions to clarify, while encouraging your partner to more thoroughly explain their point of view.

As you ask questions, an effective listener will demonstrate through non-verbals that you are engaged in their responses.

Try asking:

  • “I think I’m understanding. Can you say more about what [X] is like for you?”
How to Be A Better Listener in a Relationship

Summarizing is an excellent way to confirm and show your partner that you understand them. Your goal is for your partner to feel heard by you- feeling understood by your partner is comforting and meaningful experience.

Once your partner is finished speaking, a good listener will offer to play back what you heard in your words. Ask them if you are getting it right, or if there is something you are missing that they would like you to understand more.

Bonus points for validating your partners feelings. This means that not only you understand how the feel, but you tell them that their feelings are valid in the context they shared with you.

attend counseling

A couples therapist can guide complex situations and provide a safe space where both partners are able to understand their own experience and that of their partner.

When the content of your conversation is emotionally charged in any way, it may be difficult for you to manage effective listening alone. Reaching out to a professional can help you:

finding a couples therapist

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