How to Be a Better Listener

by | Jan 15, 2019 | Relationships

“In every disagreement with your spouse, remember that there is not a winner and a loser.
You are united in everything, so you will either win together or lose together. Work together to find a solution where you both win.”
-Dave Willis

Effective communication is a source of contention in many relationships. Two people enter a marriage with different personalities, tendencies and communication preferences. Sometimes, while trying to bridge those differences, the original message gets lost in the mechanics of the process. One element that plays a huge role in the success of a conversation is the participant’s ability to listen. Thankfully, there are a few universal guidelines that assist in smooth communication and improved listening skills. Here are three:

Give Undivided Attention

The first step in becoming a better listener is to remove any and all distractions when interacting with your spouse. Your partner deserves your undivided attention while attempting to share their explanation of feelings or important information. Simple conversations can escalate into complicated arguments if you give the impression that you are not fully listening. Placing focus on anything other than the conversation that your spouse it attempting to have only serves to add more reason to argue than diffuse the situation. When conversing put down your phone, turn off the tv, turn toward your spouse and give them the respect of eye contact. Prove through your actions that their words are important to you and worthy of your complete attention.

Wait

The next step is to practice patience. During heated moments, it’s easy to get frustrated and want to jump into the conversation by interrupting. Resist the temptation. Interrupting is the result of listening to respond instead of listening to understand. This bad habit is a “communication don’t. Instead try to prioritize paying attention to the message your spouse is trying to convey. Respect your partner’s efforts to share their perspective instead of overlooking that in order to rush to explain your side or defend yourself.  

Consider Complete Communication

Lastly, analyze the totality of what’s being communicated. Conversations include both verbal and nonverbal communication. When considering verbal communication, it’s important to listen to the words being said, but also to the type of vocabulary your spouse is using to explain themselves. Are they using emotion filled language? Are they being short and offering only one word responses? Also listen for tone. Is your spouse being sarcastic or trying to implement a gentle tone in efforts to inspire peace? Noting elements like these will help you better translate the full message that your spouse is trying to convey. With non-verbal communication, you must rely on what you see to add to what was (or wasn’t) said. Consider body language, facial expressions and even physical contact. If your partner refuses to be near you, folds their arms and won’t look at you, they are clearly very upset and may need to have a cool down period. To improve your communication skills, it’s vital to take in the whole picture while listening.

Skilled communication can make the difference in whether a couple has a future together or a future apart. Do your best to communicate clearly, concisely and in love. When on the listening side be patient, attentive and observant. Mastering these skills takes time and two willing partners, but once you’ve put in the work, the fruits of your labor will be well worth your efforts.