Communication - the magic to create a good relationship
"You aren't listening to me!"Do you sometimes wonder whether your partner is losing their hearing? Do they respond to you as though you’ve just spoken a foreign language? Do you simply completely miss each other? These feelings are all connected to a disconnect in communication, an essential building block for a strong relationship.
Even with a huge amount of love and the best intentions, without effective communication skills, you and your partner will fall short of understanding each other’s needs. Honestly, it is a skill, and one that many of us can fall short of. As we have all experienced at some point, this can lead to arguments that go around in circles, completely exhausting us and getting us nowhere fast! In fact, they can slowly chip away at the very kernel of a good relationship, that sense of connection.
A key part of communication is listening. We tend to think of listening as a passive activity; a time when our job is to sit quietly and let our partner’s words drift into our ear (and sometimes out the other). But, in fact, it’s possibly the most vital part of a thriving, happy relationship.
By working on your ability to listen actively and mindfully, you not only open up new ways of understanding your partner but also improve your own well-being by making your conversations more fulfilling and meaningful.
4 habits that sabotage good communication
We understand that listening is an active process, but there’s a fine balance to strike. There are a few common mistakes we can make that can derail a moment when we can connect and draw each other closer (yes, even when arguing!). This can be when we are being too passive and not paying attention, or being too active and trying to guess what they’re going to say and butt in.
Here are four different examples of bad listeners. Think about your own conversations with your partner. Can you recognise yourself?
1. The distracted listener
You don’t need to be told not to scroll through your phone whilst someone is speaking to you, but what about your mind? If it’s somewhere else – daydreaming or writing a mental shopping list – it tells your partner that you don’t care what they’re saying. This can happen easily in long-term relationships, where it’s hard to believe your partner will say something you haven’t heard before. This is a really bad trap.
2. The words-only listener
We communicate in a huge range of ways. Paying attention to your partner’s words whilst ignoring all their other cues is like watching a West End show with your eyes closed – you’ll likely only pick up 50% of the message. When your partner is talking to you, start taking notice of their body language, tone, facial expression, eye contact and level of engagement.
3. The irritated listener
Impatient listening is a suite of listening mistakes, including cutting your partner off mid-sentence and guessing what they were going to say, thinking about what you want to say next whilst they’re speaking, and using your responses to steer the conversation in the direction you want it to go. To avoid being an irritable listener, use what your partner says and respond to that.
4. The selective listener
The selective listener does not come to a conversation with an open mind. They have already decided how this conversation is going to go. They don't respond to what is being said but respond by thinking about all the things from the past. They also only hear what they want to say. When your partner talks to you, try to empty your mind of all previous baggage based on yourself, your partner and your previous conversations.
How to create connection through active listening
Here are six tips to help you become a more active, empathetic and engaged listener, and create that all-important magic ingredient connection!
Make eye contact, nod your head, use your facial expressions, and make sure your body language is open and facing your partner. Make sounds of agreement and understanding to show you’re engaging with what they’re saying. All of these changes will show your partner that they are heard and respected.
2. Be present
Be present in the moment and devote your whole attention to your partner. Step into their shoes. This means not only listening to what they say but being aware of the other aspects of their behaviour, such as their tone, body language and facial expressions. Try to put yourself in their thought process and understand what they’re feeling. And if you feel your mind wandering, snap it back!
3. Be open to what is being said
Suppose your partner reaches out to you to discuss something important to them. In that case, they want you to listen and nothing else – unless they state otherwise. Try to avoid giving your opinion or advice unless it’s asked for and do your best in your own mind not to judge what your partner is saying. Your job is to receive the message, not evaluate it.
4. Not all silences need to be filled!
We are often taught that silence signals a failure in the conversation and that we should fill it, but this isn’t the case. Moments of silence give you and your partner time to reflect and allow new thoughts to come to you. Welcome silence and try to resist moving forward with the conversation until the moment feels right.
5. Rephrase and reflect
After your partner has finished speaking, try confirming what they’ve said or paraphrasing it, using words like "So what you’re saying is…" and "Am I right in understanding that…?" This can make your partner feel more understood and enhance feelings of closeness and intimacy.
6. Ask questions
When we truly empathise with our partner because we’ve experienced something similar, it can be tempting to respond with our own stories. Resist this urge and try asking them an open question instead, like "How did that affect you?" or "What did you think about that?" This will show your partner that you care for and respect them enough to dedicate a conversation solely to their experience and feelings.
What are the benefits of active listening for your relationship?
Practising active listening will make you and your partner feel better heard, respected, and loved. Resisting the heat of an argument and using these techniques in moments of disagreement can also reduce frustration and help you reach a point of understanding much faster. In fact, it can turn an argument into a moment that creates connection and love.
By becoming an active listener, you enable your partner to spend more time connecting with their thought and feelings. As well as allowing you to understand them better, this helps them understand themselves, too. This increase in self-awareness and empathy will build a connection between you that is deeper, more intimate, and most importantly, more fulfilling.
I dare you to put this into practice and test this process for yourself. You may find it surprisingly magical as it reduces disconnection and creates the ability for you and your partner to feel connected and loved.