Body language and unspoken attraction are some of the most fun parts at the start of a relationship. But as you can probably imagine, those traits do not make for a healthy, lifelong partnership. One of the main reasons couples divorce is because they lost the ability or never had the skills to communicate with one another. Poor listening skills lead to the breakdown in communication in a marriage. Below, how to be a more effective and life-giving listener.
Keep an Open Mind
Don't judge. Jumping to conclusions or looking for the right or wrong in what is being said prevents you from listening. Think before you say anything in response, especially if it is an emotional reaction.
Make Listening a Priority
Listen without planning on what you are going to say in response. Let go of your own agenda. Be aware that you need to listen. Make eye contact. Pay attention by not looking at the TV or glancing at the newspaper or finishing up a chore.
Use Feedback Technique
Let your partner know that you heard what they said by using a feedback technique and restating what was said. Say something like "I hear you when you say that..." Be open to the possibility that you didn't hear clearly what your spouse was saying, and give them space to say so if that is the case.
Pay Attention to Their Non-Verbal Signs
Be aware of non-verbal signs and clues—both yours and those of your mate. These include shrugging your shoulders, tone of voice, crossing arms or legs, nodding, eye contact or looking away, facial expressions (smile, frown, shock, disgust, tears, surprise, rolling eyes, etc.), and mannerisms (fiddling with papers, tapping your fingers). Over half of your message is delivered through non-verbal signs.
Understand What Blocks You from Listening
Try not to fall into these patterns of listening: mind reading, rehearsing, filtering, judging, daydreaming, advising, sparring, being right, changing the subject, stonewalling, and placating.
Understand the Differences in Your Communication Styles
You may just communicate differently. Being aware can enhance your listening skills. One of you may often share because you want to give information or solve a problem. The other may tend to talk to connect with someone or to get information. Some folks talk more about relationships than others. You may be more concerned about details than your spouse.
DO NOT attribute all your listening differences to your gender—you're both adults, and there is a point where personal responsibility must take over despite any differences in your societal internalizations based off of your gender presentation.
Know the Difference Between Advice and Talking
Don't give advice unless it's been asked for. You can't listen and talk at the same time. Feelings are neither right or wrong.