There is something deep in each of us that longs to be heard and understood. When someone takes the time to listen, we feel loved. When someone does not listen, we feel frustrated. Have you ever heard your children or spouse respond to you in frustration, "You are not Listening!"
Very often the first exercise of couples counseling is active listening practice. It feels remedial and stilted at the beginning but it always yields some kind of relational breakthrough. Just taking the time to listen and clarify what the other person is saying provides the opportunity for simple solutions to reveal themselves. Other times listening itself the solution
If you are unfamiliar with the rules of active listening here is a quick overview:
- The speaker has the floor.
When the other person is talking, let them finish.
Do not interrupt.
Do not plan what your are going to say in response.
Listen carefully and repeat back to the speaker what you heard them say.
Ask if you got it right.
Allow the speaker to correct what you heard, add to it, or alter it as necessary, until they agree that you have repeated back to them what they meant to say.
- Use "I" sentences when you speak.
This "I" sentence template is effective: When you _____________ I feel __________________.
Do not overwhelm the listener with words.
Allow them time to repeat back what you are saying for understanding.
It helps to remember that listening is not agreeing. You can listen with empathy to the other person's point of view without agreeing with their perspective.
Using non-judgmental listening will allow the conversation to move back and forth without escalating. This back and forth in communication is called reciprocity. Social reciprocity is essential to healthy attachment in relationships. The social reciprocity process applies to couples attachment, child-parent relationships, sibling interactions, and friendships.
Give active listening a try and let us know how it went for you.