How to listen better in relationships

“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” – Bryant H. McGill.

In this article we will cover how to listen better in relationships. Listening may sound as simple as breathing, and it is indeed a simple and powerful tool. Listening isn’t just hearing; it’s more like diving into someone’s world. It’s about being fully there, not just physically but mentally and emotionally too. Oftentimes we’re so focused on speaking, on getting our point across, that we forget the power of true listening. But let me tell you, listening is like a secret sauce that can turn even the most ordinary interactions into something extraordinary when it comes to relationships.  Let’s dive into why active listening is such a game-changer in relationships and how it can truly make a world of difference.

Trust and Understanding

Building Trust: Trust is the foundation of any strong long term relationship. Have you noticed when someone actively listens to you, you’re feeling that your words really matter to the other person?  And it creates sense of respect and acknowledgment. For example, imagine your friend complains about a tough day at work. When you deeply listen and show empathy, saying something like, “I can see why that was hard for you,” it deepens trust and strengthens your connection.

I remember coming home from work and my kids rushing to tell me how the day has been in the kindergarten. No matter how tired I was, I sat down and listened carefully. It`s important for me to let my kids know that they can talk with me about anything what`s important to them.

Deeper Understanding: Active listening is like exploration of  the details of a beautiful painting. It helps you catch the nuances of what’s being said – the emotions, the unspoken thoughts, the hidden layers… Let`s imagine you’re talking to a friend who`s dealing with a personal issue. He might not say it explicitly, but you can sense the frustration, the exhaustion, maybe even a touch of vulnerability. Active listening can help you pick up on subtle cues, like changes in their tone or moments of hesitation. These nuances can lead to more profound and supportive conversations. And yes, I can tell from the tone of voice that there is something not right. 🙂 

Empathy Boost: Empathy means not just understanding but truly feeling what someone else is going through. Active listening is your ticket to becoming more empathetic. Think about your child expressing fears about an upcoming school presentation. Active listening, along with saying, “I get why you’re nervous; I’ve felt like that before too,” shows that you’re not just hearing words; you’re connecting with their emotions.

boy listening to a girl

Practical Tips How to Listen Better in Relationships:

Here are some practical tips to boost your abilities to listen as an expert:

  •       Be Fully Present: Imagine your grandparent wants to share their memories. To be fully present, you put away your phone, sit with them, look them in the eyes, and give them your undivided attention. This simple act shows them that you care about their stories and that you’re there to listen and connect.
  •         Give Verbal and Non-Verbal Cues: When a friend talks about a recent breakup, you nod, maintain eye contact, and respond with phrases like, “I totally understand what you’re saying,” or “That sounds incredibly tough.” These cues reassure your friend that you’re engaged and caring.
  •         Avoid Interrupting: In a chat with a coworker who’s presenting their ideas for a new project, you don’t immediately jump in with your thoughts. Instead, you let them finish their presentation, showing that you respect their viewpoint and value their input.
  •         Reflect and Clarify: During a family discussion about vacation plans, you pause and say, “So, if I’ve got this right, you’re suggesting we go camping this summer. Am I getting it right?” This shows that you’re actively listening and also helps to clear up any misunderstandings.
  •         Empathize: If your teenager is upset about a disagreement with a friend,one way to respond with empathy is to be there and be together in the discomfort, “I can imagine that it must have hurt your feelings. It’s tough when friendships go through rough patches.” This puts you in their shoes.
  •         Ask Open-Ended Questions: for example, when discussing a project delay, instead of asking a colleague, “Did this cause a delay?”, try out open ended question like “What do you think was the reason for the delay, and how can we avoid it next time?” This starts a deeper conversation and encourages your colleague to share their insights.
  •   Practice Patience:  this is one of the most challenging for me because it takes more time investment. Let`s say, your friend talks about their dreams and plans, try not to rush them or offer fixes from your experience. If you give the time and space to express all what they want to say, the magic of deeper connection and trust creates wonders.
  •         Be mindful: practice mindfulness exercises, breathwork or other holistic practices to ground yourself and be more present in your life. By being more present you will be able to observe your thoughts, you will become less reactive and more proactive in solving your relationship issues.

Active listening is the bridge that truly connects hearts. I have experienced that it can transform everyday conversations  into meaningful life long connections. By mastering the art (yes, I believe listening is art) of active listening, you enable a journey of richer, more fulfilling relationships with the people dear to you – you improve relationships. 

how to listen better in relationships

Top 10 questions to yourself to improve listening skills:

Reflecting on your listening skills is a valuable way to improve listening skills and train your noticing skills as well. As a transformative coach I highly value the power of reflection and asking the right questions. Here are top 10 questions you can ask yourself to become an expert in listening and improve your relationships:

  1.       Am I truly present when someone is speaking to me? Reflect on whether you are fully engaged in the conversation or if your mind tends to wander. Are you forming a reply while the other person is still speaking?
  2.       Do I interrupt or finish others’ sentences? Consider if you have a habit of jumping in before the other person has finished speaking. That would indicate “listening to reply” approach.
  3.       Am I open to different viewpoints and perspectives? Think about whether you are receptive to hearing ideas and opinions that differ from your own. Notice your reactions when your opinion differs from the partner`s.
  4.       Do I ask open-ended questions? Consider if you often ask questions that invite deeper conversation rather than ones that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” Do you show curiosity by wanting to know more?
  5.       Am I quick to offer advice or solutions? Reflect on whether you tend to jump into problem-solving mode rather than allowing the other person to express themselves fully.
  6.     Am I aware of non-verbal cues? Think about whether you pay attention to body language, tone of voice, and other non-verbal signals that convey meaning. Do you notice such signals in other conversations?
  7.   Do I practice empathy? Consider if you make an effort to understand the emotions and feelings behind what someone is saying. How do you respond when people become emotional? Can you step into their shoes? 
  8.   Am I a patient listener? Take some time to reflect on whether you rush through conversations or if you give people the time they need to express themselves. By the way have you noticed that most important things may come up later in the conversation when the trust is built?
  9.   Do I follow up on conversations? Think about whether you remember and follow up on important details or topics discussed in previous conversations. Like names of children, pets, favorite experiences…”God is in the details” – do you agree?
  10. Am I open to feedback? Consider if you are willing and ready to hear from others about how you can improve your listening. Being open to feedback is a sign of a mature personality. By the way have you ever asked feedback about how good listener you are?

These questions can serve as a starting point for growth in your listening skills and improvement of relationships. Sometimes just asking yourself: “How to listen better in relationships?” can bring a lot of answers. The key is to be honest with yourself. When it comes to romantic relationships, remember that every relationship is unique, and what works for one couple may not work for another, so take your time to find out your unique answers. Whether it`s communication with your partner, friend or relative, listening is essential part of building strong and lasting connections. Practice and you will become a master!

Written by Ieva Spilberga, Transformative Coach.

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