Here’s Some Relationship Advice…Listen Up

I believe a large part of happiness comes from real connection with others. Whether your significant other, children, work mates, family, friends — these relationships fulfill certain basic needs…that is if the relationship is sound. I’ve had some pretty rocky relationships in my life — just ask ex-husband number one and number two. But as I’ve worked on bettering relationships in my life, the best — and hardest — advice I’ve received is to work on being a better listener.

If you’re like me, I’ve already lost you because you’re busy thinking about how this relates to you and your experience. And that brings us to rule number one of becoming a better, active, listener…

Remember, It’s Not About You

When someone else is talking and sharing their feelings and opinions, the stage is theirs. You will get your turn. In this moment, turn off the voice in your head that starts equating your experience with theirs. It is never the same, all experiences are individual and right now you are listening to that of the other. You will get a chance to share your feelings.

Often times, especially in conflict, something the other person says will create a reaction in you, bringing us to rule number two…

Stay Focused

Listening is not about forming an opinion or preparing a response, it is truly open, aware, information gathering. Once the other person is done speaking you can ask for a moment, and this is where you can begin to formulate your thoughts and response. When you do this, it allows for you to hear what the other person is saying without being clouded by your judgment or emotional reactions.

This one is very difficult to do. It requires a lot of practice, and I’ve found a good way to practice is through meditation. When you’re already practicing staying in the moment and quieting the mind, it is much easier to stay focused when listening to someone else.

Recognize the Value of Your Silence

As Gil Hadley of Integral Anatomy puts it, “You have to believe for those moments that none of the things you might say could possibly be as valuable as hearing someone out.” Once you accept this fact, the value of your silence exponentially grows as you recognize the value in truly hearing what the other has to say.

True, engaged listening can be really hard, but it’s not impossible. And the rewards are truly worth the added effort. Give it a try and see how positively someone else responds when you listen to them in this active way. The cycle of active listening continues as it encourages them to do the same for you when it is your turn to share. This ultimately creates the space to nurture a healthy, happy relationship.