Relationship skill: Being A Good Listener

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After you and your partner have been together for some time, you recognized the importance of being a good listener. Couples often develop a language I like to call “Couples Shorthand”. It consists mainly of questions asked by one partner, answered with grunts and groans from the other.  Sound familiar?  A funny quote is that 90% of marriage is yelling “What!” from another room. I don’t think it’s quite that high, but close. Any married couple will tell you that selective hearing is a real thing. Seriously though, if we’re being honest we know we could be doing a better job of being a good listener and attending to our partner. 

How do you feel when you’re not being heard? Unimportant, disrespected?  It’s not that bad if it happens once in a while, but if this is the norm in your relationship, one or both of you may be getting quite frustrated. This can lead to a relationship in which or both of you feeling emotionally disconnected. This poor listening can lead to arguments about what you’ve told your partner. They may claim they never heard it, and you’re sure you told them. Things can really get complicated and heated if an important message or appointment is lost because of poor communication. 

If you’re feeling this way, it’s a good bet that your partner is too. Communication is too important to reduce it to this shorthand we often adopt. You both have to make a point to give each other your full attention when one of you has something important to say. This means stop what you’re doing, mute the TV, set your phone down and turn to face your partner and look them in the eye. Pay attention to their words and their body language. This is just basic respect, and we don’t do this enough.  

If it’s inconvenient for you to pay proper attention or your mind is otherwise occupied, tell your partner you’d like to discuss it later, and make a point to do that. If it’s important to them it should be important to you. Find a stopping place with what you’re doing and be ready to listen fully. 

Don’t interject, interrupt or change the subject. Give your time and your attention to your partner. 

Don’t try to turn the conversation and make it about you. Let your partner finish what they have to say, and then wait before you reply. Listen with the intention to understand and take in what you’ve been told, not with the intention to respond.

Don’t assume or react right away. Ask appropriate questions to find out what your partner wants and/or needs from you in this scenario. What is the reason they’re telling you this, and what, if anything do they want from you? 

Don’t try to jump in with all kinds of advice and opinions on how to fix it, instead wait for direction from your partner as to what they want you to do. Sometimes it’s just to listen, you are not required to fix everything , but sometimes your partner does want advice and help thinking things through for a solution.

The main thing is to really listen to each other. Give proper respect, time and attention to your partner. They should never feel like they’re inconveniencing you or that what they have to say is unimportant. If you try, you can become a great listener and your partner will feel so much better about sharing and feeling like you are really hearing what they have to say. Being a good partner is also being a good listener.








About the Author:

Stuart Fensterheim, LCSW helps couples to overcome the disconnection in their relationships. As an author, blogger and podcaster, Stuart has helped couples around the world to experience a unique relationship in which they can feel special and important, confident in knowing they are loved deeply and that their presence matters. The Couples Expert Podcast consists of weekly provocative conversations offering the perspectives and insight of experts from a variety of relationship related fields. Stuart also offers daily relationship video tips on The Couples Expert YouTube channel and by subscription in Stuart's Daily Notes. Stuart is happily married and a devoted father of 2 daughters. His office practice serves the greater Phoenix, Arizona area including the cities of Scottsdale, Chandler, Tempe, and Mesa.