So, last month I talked about the blocks to listening. There is more to listening though, than just being aware of your blocks. So here are steps to listening.
1. Stop what you are doing, face the person, become present and then listen. This means you have to stop typing on the computer, balancing your checkbook, or staring off into space. It is time to be a detective. You are just trying to understand what is being shared, what is being conveyed and possibly guess the emotions that might be going on for the speaker. Just because you are listening doesn’t mean that you agree. Your role at this time is just to make sure that you understand what is being said, for you to ask clarifying questions to make sure and let the speaker know that they are heard.
2. It might not be the best time for you at that moment. Rather than pretend to listen and stay disconnected. Tell your partner, “You know, this really isn’t a good time for me to give you my full attention, can we get back together in about an hour?” Especially for introverts, if you are not able to listen, don’t feel guilty because listening when you aren’t available will cause “flooding” and you will “check out” anyway.
3. A good way to practice active listening is to ask clarifying questions and paraphrase what you are hearing. Some sample lead in’s follow.
What I hear you saying is….
Let me understand, what was going on for you was….
In other words….
Do you mean?
When you say_______, do you mean?
Your speaker will let you know if you are on track with them or if you aren’t can clarify what they mean to get to a deeper level with you.
4. An advanced skill is to try to guess what the speaker might be feeling. The trick here is not to say affirmatively, “oh, you feel angry” like you know for sure, but to take a curious approach, “Your tone of voice sounds angry when you say that, is that right?” or “Oh, it sounds as if you were hurt then, is that right?”
5. Once the speaker knows that he or she is heard, there is a connection and an opportunity for you to respond. Just because you hear what they say, understand how whatever happened affected your partner, doesn’t mean you see it that exact way (especially if you were involved). It does mean that you are connected and your partner feels heard. It is then, that you can speak what is true for you.
Improving your listening skills draws you closer in your relationships and sets the stage for both parties to be heard.
Nancy Ryan, LMFT specializes in working with individuals and couples who want deep, satisfying relationships with themselves and their partners. She works with couples who are ready to stop the destructive patterns and want to build the love, friendship and romance back into their partnership.