Ever heard the expression “Listen up?” Sometimes coaches say it when their team is in a huddle. They want everyone to pay particular attention to their message. Listen up. Lift your chin up; direct your gaze up into my eyes. Listen carefully and hear what I’m saying. Listen up.
How often do you feel like your partner is not hearing what you’re saying? Or maybe your partner’s voice has become all too familiar to you and it’s become too easy to tune out. Maybe you do it unconsciously.
The Listening Problem
If you don’t even know what you’re not hearing your significant other saying, how can you know what you’re missing? How can you have a clue what’s on your partner’s mind? How can you begin to understand that person? How can you possibly have a relationship with that person, fulfilling or otherwise?
Why It’s Easy Not to Listen
Every word from your partner’s mouth is not necessarily a golden nugget worth savoring, so you have to sift through the sand and grit for the meaningful stuff. And that can be a chore. Sometimes our beloved’s familiar voice becomes too familiar, and it fades from our consciousness before we notice it. Active, mindful listening takes effort. It’s easier not to listen carefully. We’re human.
Why It’s Important to Listen
A truly intimate, fulfilling relationship comes when you fully understand the world in which your partner lives, from your partner’s perspective. And vice versa. You can get a sense how your partner is feeling when you stay in emotional touch by asking pertinent questions and listening, really listening, to the answers. When you respond with empathy, your partner can hear how much you care about him or her to take the trouble to be cognizant of their feelings. In short, couples who listen well to one another have less of a chance of growing apart, and more of a chance for an enriching relationship.
Your First Step to Mindful Listening
Before you begin, try to void yourself of the need to be anything but a sponge, absorbing your partner’s thoughts. This is not about your witty responses, not about your own agenda, not about you. Instead, you are going to listen silently and try to understand how your partner feels, even if you don’t agree with the premise he or she puts forth. Just be quiet and take it all in.
Many people—men especially—feel the need to make an immediate fix. That is often not required. Your partner may not need or want you to solve the problem. Your partner may not want you to cheer him or her out of feeling bad, sad, mad or however they feel. You don’t have to take responsibility for their feelings. You don’t even have to agree or disagree. Sometimes it’s enough for people to express themselves and know that you know how they feel. That alone is comforting, and a good way to help your partner.
Next week I’ll write more about the dos and don’ts of being a great listener. It’s an important skill to master, and once you do, your relationship is bound to improve.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: http://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact.