By focusing on how couples are attempting to discuss difficult subjects, we find our most successful point of intervention.
The therapist will tell you that it doesn’t matter what a couple is discussing; what matters is how they are talking about it.
Listen better in a relationship
Allowing oneself to be influenced is the essential starting point for open communication to occur; if you enter into a discussion with your partner and your goal is to have them change their opinion, you have entered a slippery slope toward conflict.
Imagine entering into a discourse about politics with your partner, a natural place for discussions to get out of control.
There is probably little chance of you agreeing about your divergent political opinions, and such topics present longstanding issues for which both of you are well aware, and your manner of relating to each other becomes pathologically scripted.
Now, here comes the need for the art of listening!
In many instances, in long term relationships, the conflict discussions aren’t things that are happening outside of the relationship but about things that happen between the two partners.
Yet the pattern is the same most of the time, meaning that you are both mostly tuned out and non-receptive to the other’s viewpoints, feelings, and needs.
There is a tremendous opportunity here, and you can channelize your purpose of listening towards a positive outcome- to improve relationships!
Instead of tuning out the other and amplifying your own argument, by strengthening communication, you can cast aside your preconceived beliefs about yourself, your world views, parenting differences, and the person you love, to have the opportunity to be heard and understood, by letting them influence and affect you.
The power of listening
One of the greatest gifts that we can offer another is our presence and attunement to
their thoughts and feelings. Most of the time, when our partner is communicating with
us, they aren’t looking for a fixer, to solve their problems.
The act of merely being heard is often a potent elixir of communion and connection.
Couples therapists have many therapeutic communication tools to help couples facilitate the kind of presence, empathy, and connection in communication.
They can be helpful to try at home. Still, it is usually recommended that they are done in conjunction with marriage counseling/couples therapy, it can be tough to follow their format as simple as they may seem at first.
The art of listening in a relationship involves three essential steps. They are discussed as follows.
This is the first step in the art of listening. Although it may seem obvious, it is tough to implement.
Listening means that you are offering your presence to your partner and that you
This second step in the art of listening has the effect of syncing the two of you together.
Then, after your partner has spoken their entire point, you are now able to enjoy your chance to
communicate by parroting everything that you have heard them say.
You should be careful to contain only what your partner has said and not inserting your thoughts, feelings, or reactions.
Then, ask your partner to follow up by asking them, “have I heard you correctly” or “does that sound right” or “can I add any more?”
Validation is one of the greatest gifts you can give your partner – it extends empathy and understanding to your partner’s perspective. This is often easier to do after having truly listened to and internalized your partner’s thoughts.
The statement can be something like, “I can understand that _______ or it makes sense that_________.”
This doesn’t mean that you necessarily agree with the points being conveyed, but you are
only indicating that you understand because you have entered his or her emotional perspective.
By trying the above sequence of exercises in order, you will gain the skill of connecting
and understanding that is proven increases feelings of connection and reduces conflict.
This is the final and one of the most critical steps in the art of listening.
Watch this video to understand the importance of validation :
Remember, this entire process about the art of listening isn’t as easy as it seems.
Our ways of communicating with our partner are often deeply embedded in us and using this kind of exercise along with the help of counseling a professional has the best results.
Stephanie Wijkstrom, MS, LPC, NCC is The Founder of The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh and is a crusader of the modern family. Stephanie is passionate about providing marriage counseling to couples of Western Pennsylvania.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.