If you’re like most people, you don’t like to be wrong. You have in your head how you want things to be and, when they don’t go your way, it’s hard to see others’ perspectives. This seems to be especially difficult when it comes to communicating with your spouse. If you’re like us, becoming better listeners is something that each of us has to work on, consciously, each and every day. We have found, in our endless efforts to communicate better with one another, that there are 6 tips that really seem to help.
6 Tips to Become a Better Listener
1. Think about what’s worked for you
We’ve all been there…needing to talk and don’t know what to say. You just know that you need the love and support of those closest to you. When you find yourself in a position when your spouse needs to talk to you, ask yourself what’s worked when you’ve needed someone to listen. Did you need him to respond and problem-solve for you, or did you just need someone to serve as your sounding board? When you take the time to reflect on what’s most helped you, you can offer the same support when it’s your turn to be the listener.
2. Don’t think about what you’re going to say
When you’re listening to your spouse, remember that it’s not about you. If you’re truly listening, you shouldn’t be thinking about what you’re going to say next. Focusing, instead, on what’s being shared with you will help you to better hear what the other is saying and will give you the chance to be more attentive to their needs.
3. You’re Not There to Judge
When your spouse (or anyone, for that matter) needs to talk about something, they aren’t looking for someone to weigh in on the situation or to make them feel that did something wrong. Instead, when you are having a heart-to-heart on a difficult topic, try to remain objective and know that you there simply to offer your support. If your conversation brings up a topic needing decision-making or further planning, now may not be the time to initiate it.
When it comes time for one of us to step in the role as listener, we often ask the other what they most need…a problem-solver, shoulder or friend (or combination of the three.) It helps us to know how we can help each other.
4. Step out of your shoes
Stepping out of your shoes and into the other person’s can be one of the more difficult parts of listening. It means putting aside your thoughts and beliefs and trying to think as your spouse is thinking. While it may be tough to see things from your spouse’s perspective, it will help you to empathize with them and to make you a more compassionate listener.
5. It’s all about timing
If we know that we need to have a heart-to-heart about something, we make sure that we plan for it. We don’t try to have it as we’re getting ready to take the kids opposite directions or over dinner with the family. We know that if either of us is going to be able to give ourselves to the conversation that it’s going to have to be just the two of us, at a time when neither of us has to run.
Planning chats for a good time means choosing a time and place where you’re not likely to be interrupted and when you can completely focus on the other person. Whether it’s over the phone during lunch breaks or after the kids are in bed, you must take time to really listen to each other.
6. Get rid of distractions
Let’s face it our lives are bombarded with media. Multi-tasking with phones, TV and tablets has become a way of life. If you are going to be an effective listener, you must put it all aside and communicate the old fashioned way…with your spoken words.
When it comes time for us to talk with each other, we typically sit in the privacy of our bedroom, with our phones on silent and the TV off. Unless we tune out the outside world, we know that we cannot fully give ourselves to the conversation and to getting better acquainted with one another’s hearts.
Do you have other tips on how to become a better listener? Please share some of the strategies that have worked for you and your significant other.