It is no secret that effective communication between couples is an absolutely vital component of healthy relationships. What seems to be less obvious, however, is that in order for communication to be truly effective, couples need to master and continuously practice the art of active listening. Since most people are born with it, the ability to hear others is no special feat. Being able to listen, on the other hand, does not come quite so easily. Learning how to really listen to others is a skill that requires effort and practice but luckily, the payoffs are plentiful.
The great thing about learning and mastering active listening skills is that they will undoubtedly prove to be an invaluable resource not only in your dating life but also in every other aspect of your life that requires any level of social interaction. When you listen to somebody else, you are essentially giving that person a very special gift. Active listening makes those you listen to feel important and appreciated, which often deepens the levels of respect, trust, and intimacy between you.
Though many of the active listening techniques might seem a lot like common sense stuff, using those techniques correctly and consistently is a skill that requires conscious effort and plenty of regular practice. If you want to learn more about what active listening entails and to improve your communication skills, review the list below for an overview of the top five behaviors that represent active listening.
- Be present - Pay close attention to the body language signals that you are giving off. Directly face the person who is speaking, make frequent eye contact (but be careful not to overdo this to the point that it gets creepy or uncomfortable), and most importantly, give the speaker your undivided attention.
- Be patient - If you disagree with what the speaker is saying or become impatient with them while they are trying to get a point across, you might be tempted to finish their sentences or to interrupt them before they have had a chance to get it all out. The fact is that if you are focused on how long it has taken the speaker to make a point then you probably haven’t been listening very carefully to what was being said. Show the speaker your respect by allowing him/her to finish his/her train of thought without interruption.
- Be open minded - When practicing the art of active listening, it will often be necessary for you to consider point of views that may differ considerably from your own. Listen to the speaker with an open mind and try to avoid making any assumptions about his/her thoughts and feelings.
- Be focused - One of the biggest enemies of active listening is the natural human tendency to focus more on internal chatter than on what the speaker is actually saying. It is obviously very difficult to truly listen to somebody else if you spend the entire time they are speaking thinking about what you want to say or how you will respond. Rather than devote your attention to developing your own point, make a conscious effort to focus only on listening to the speaker.
- Be encouraging - Use appropriate responses and body language to encourage the speaker as he/she is expressing a point of view. Leaning forward slightly, nodding your head, using verbal encouragers such as “yes”, “okay”, “right”, or “go on” are some examples of ways in which you can offer encouragement to the speaker.