Author: Genie Price
Everyone communicates in some form or another. Whether it be verbal or non-verbal, via email or in person, good communication skills are essential if you want to maintain successful personal and professional relationships.
While we all know that our professional interactions and behaviours are important, our romantic relationships are even more significant. Unless you enjoy seeing your significant other doze off during a conversation, experts agree that by learning how to listen attentively, it can limit these unfavourable responses.
What is active listening?
Active listening, also known as reflective listening, or the empathetic ear can be acquired with practice. As its name suggests, active listening means giving your full attention to a conversation, not just simply “hearing” the message.
Registered Psychologist Sasha Dulnuan, of Adaptive Minds Psychology, Queensland, states “whether it be couples, marriage, family dynamics, workplace or social setting, I always emphasise the importance of good communication” … “and active listening is one of those skills I like to educate my clients on.”
Traditionally, the average listener requires a shift in stimulation about every 20 minutes. However, with growing trends among fast-paced social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, and push notifications on smartphones, the human body now reaches its attention span in as little as 20 seconds.
You can overcome this by learning how to listen better and pay attention, giving you the opportunity to increase your chances of a successful conversation.
How to listen effectively?
There is nothing worse than knowing someone isn’t really paying attention to you during an important conversation, especially if it’s your loved one. Generally, if we are the speakers, we want others to listen.
In short, to listen effectively means to maintain your focus on your partner (or the speaker) while they speak.
Ways in which you can do this are:
- Not getting distracted by notifications on your phone or email and listen to both what is being said and how it is spoken. Turn your phone off if that makes it easier.
- Keep your eyes and your mind focused on your partner
- Apply subtle changes in body language to show your interest, such as sitting up straight to refocus yourself while maintaining eye contact
- Avoid gestures, which make it appear as though you are not listening, such as fidgeting with a pen, looking over paperwork or tapping your feet
- Think about what your partner is saying and why they might be saying it.
- Remind yourself of how you wish to be treated when it’s your turn to speak
- Do not try to formulate a response until they have finished speaking, ensuring you get the full, clear message
So, what makes active listening so important?
Relationships have evolved over the years and so have the causes of relationship problems. Relationship Australia’s survey undertaken in 2011, indicates communication difficulties are the second top reason for partner relationship breakdowns, followed closely by financial stress.
Sasha explains that “when couples listen attentively to one another, it allows each one to feel good about the conversation and feel like their concerns have been considered and addressed.”
Here are some benefits of being an active listener:
- Strengthens relationships and allows couples to understand exactly what each wants and how to give to one another creating a healthy and fulfilling relationship
- Reduces conflict. Most conflict is caused by misunderstood communication
- When there is effective communication, conflict is solved by linking the communication gaps that create it
- Builds trust. When there is trust between the couple, there is no possibility of insecurities in the relationship
- Shows support for each other, where active listening creates space where couples can share their feelings with one another openly and honestly, allowing couples to work together to find a solution to problems
- Reduces misunderstandings
- Increases emotional intimacy
Facilitators, teachers, leaders and even parents all over the world use active listening for the various array of benefits it comes with because when you’re listening, you do more than just hear, you show that you know how the other person feels.
NB: If you and your partner are experiencing difficulties communicating within your relationship, please seek professional support and guidance from a registered and trusted counsellor.
Thank-you to Sasha Dulnuan, Registered Psychologist of Adaptive Minds Psychology, Queensland for her contribution to this article.
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