If I could go back in time and offer my younger self any relationship advice, it would be on how to be a better listener. This is my constant mantra in Houston marriage counseling, and the source of many of my clients’ problems. We’re so used to waiting until it is our turn to speak that we often don’t develop those skills we need to simply be attentive when other people are talking to us. Never is this more apparent than in serious, long-term romantic relationships, because these are the people who know us best and get to see us at our worst.
Relationship Advice: More Tips to Help Your Listening Skills
This isn’t the first time I’ve devoted blog space to a post about listening and communicating, and it won’t be the last. The below tips are an addition to these listening tips from back in November. If Houston marriage counseling has taught me nothing else, it is that all of us can learn to be better listeners, and should take any help we can get.
Make sure they know you’re paying attention. This means body language. Eyes on your partner when he or she is talking. Smile. Nod. Shake your head. But don’t just try to guess – you want to be engaged in their body language as much as you want them reading yours so that you can tell if what they are saying is really the whole story or if there is other information there.
Be seen, not heard. More relationship advice to my younger self: don’t interrupt. Remember, this is about you paying attention to them. You want to be involved in what they are saying, not jumping in because you’ve got a related story or you just remembered your dry cleaning. If you have questions, at least wait till they take a pause. The only exception to this rule is when your partner has been going on for so long that you’ve actually lost the thread of what they were saying. Even then, though, only interrupt to ask questions and clarify what they are talking about.
Engage. If you have the opposite problem and it’s tough to be a good listener because your spouse just won’t open up, try asking questions that are open-ended and starting with subjects that you know them to feel passionately about, such as a hobby. You might be surprised how verbose they suddenly become.