One of the wonderful gifts we can give to one another in relationships is the gift of being a great listener. Good listening creates intimate conversation, trust, and love! How can we practice this? I have found it helpful to give couples straightforward exercises to help them learn how to do this.
Here is one: Take turns asking your partner the following questions. Then use the following short lists for specific things you can ask or say to help you learn to be a great listener.
Tell me what in this world is currently making you: 1) angry; 2) sad; 3) afraid or worried; 4) hopeful; 5) happy; 6) stressed.
Questions You Can Ask As You Listen:
- How did all this begin, what was the very start?
- Do these feelings and needs have any spiritual, moral, ethical, or religious meaning for you?
- Who are the main characters in these feelings?
- How are you thinking about how all of this fits into your life as a whole?
Statements to Explore Feelings and Needs As You Listen:
- Help me understand your feelings a little better. Say more.
- If you could change the attitudes of one of the key people in this situation, talk about what you would do.
- Help me understand this situation from your point of view. What are the most important points for you?
Expressing Empathy and Understanding As You Listen:
- You’re making total sense.
- I understand how you feel.
- I wish I could have been with you in that moment.
- I see. Let me summarize: What you’re thinking/feeling here is…
- Wow! That must have ________ (hurt; made you feel angry; been a relief; etc.).
- No wonder you’re upset.
- That would make me feel _______ (hurt; angry; upset; sad; happy; relieved; insecure; etc.).
The goal here is just to understand. Remember to avoid being critical, judgmental, defensive, and don’t engage in put downs or superiority (there are prior blogs on the Four Horsemen and how to avoid them).
These are great conversations to plan to have, perhaps once a week to practice listening to one another. Give it a try!