Active Listening: The Key to Better Relationships

    In an age where distractions are abundant, and our attention spans are getting shorter than ever, the act of listening is a skill that cannot be undervalued. Active listening goes beyond just hearing words; it involves fully understanding, processing, and engaging in a conversation. In this post, we will delve into the significance of active listening and how it can be the key to building better relationships.

Understanding Active Listening:

    Active listening is a communication technique that requires the listener to fully concentrate, understand, respond, and remember what is being said in a conversation. It’s an intentional effort to be present and engaged with the speaker, going beyond just hearing their words.

    One of the things that I've found myself doing even, is pulling out my cell phone to attend to a money-generating program. Or studying while the family unit is watching TV. Each of these was complained about. Mostly when I'm doing these activities, I'm trying to better my life, better my education, and make some difference for the future of the family that I am with if I'm in a relationship. But the ugly truth is that often whoever I was with simply could not see the benefit. And they were selfish in my opinion, and wanted my attention for short-term gain of feeling OK in a relationship.

    Ultimately, I believe I was in the wrong relationship. Ideally, if I wanted to stay in a relationship, I should've paid attention to that. Gaining skills and bettering yourself so that you are a better asset to a family unit is not always accepted as a positive activity. It's as if it's unimportant to the relationship. To be honest, I believe it's important to yourself. And if the relationship you are in, doesn't allow you to be a better person for yourself then you're probably not in the right relationship.

    That being said, all things need balance. And if you want a relationship, you will have to pay attention to this.

Benefits of Active Listening:

1. **Builds Trust and Rapport**: When someone feels genuinely listened to, it fosters trust and rapport, forming the foundation of a strong relationship.  

    This single skill applied actively lets your significant other understand that you desire to be present and that they are important to you and worth your time. In general, the absence of paying attention to details, like this, will decrease the quality of your relationship.

2. **Facilitates Better Understanding**: Active listening ensures that you understand the speaker's message in its entirety, reducing the chance of misunderstandings.

    While following the rule of Pareto (Thair, 2021) 80/20 principle has been mentioned several times by relationship experts and can apply to almost all areas of life in my opinion. Thair has outlined what she says is helpful in building lasting relationships that are successful and fulfilling. 20% of the time should be of your own doing, and should be with yourself, away from your partner she said. 

    I very much agree with this, as when you are in a relationship and rely 100% on your partner for your happiness it becomes overbearing in my opinion. But less than a useful ratio of desire/need/reliance on your partner will tend to leave them unfulfilled and will drive you and yours apart. 

3. **Encourages Open Communication**: When individuals feel heard, they are more likely to open up and share their thoughts and feelings.

    Having meaningful listening and giving feedback that is nonjudgemental is tricky. If you are a man or a masculine partner, in my opinion, having an answer for all of your feminine or female partners' issues or what they are talking about will leave them feeling unheard. While the masculine partner will want to talk about fewer and fewer of their issues as traditionally, for thousands of years, this was seen as a weakness of the masculine species. 

    Recently there is a large struggle between the sexes and relationship dynamics to feminize the more traditionally masculine roles, leaving the long-standing rules of attraction in limbo. You can't have an attraction that is effective, in my opinion, if you are flipping and demoralizing the masculine, chivalrous, and respectful efforts of the masculine partners or potential suitors to advance in bettering any such relationship. 

4. **Helps in Conflict Resolution**: Active listening is crucial in resolving conflicts, as it enables individuals to understand each other’s perspectives and work towards a resolution.

    Often I find that not offering my intuition for any situation that I'm listening to is more helpful even to buddies who are stressed out or just need someone to bring them down from that frustration. Quite often my friend who is much more successful at dating and having relationships will call me just to get a sense of calm and a better perspective. 

    It's not that I'm more adept at understanding dating and relationships, it's that I'm far more logical and bereft of emotion and feeling most of the time. And when I meet someone who makes me feel, it's a bit terrifying, but I'm drawn to that. It is something I truly want in a relationship.  

Steps to Practice Active Listening:

**1. Be Fully Present**

Remove distractions such as phones, laptops, or anything that might divert your attention. Focus entirely on the speaker, showing them that they have your full attention.

    If you do this 100% of the time, however, it will not work well in my opinion, again please reference Pareto with respect to a successful relationship. If you don't have 20% friction, argument, or challenge, and or 20% working on yourself for yourself, it will leave your partner feeling unchallenged, and not attracted to a relationship that doesn't take work. 

**2. Maintain Eye Contact**

Eye contact is a powerful way to show engagement. It signals to the speaker that you are focused and interested in what they are saying.

    Use a rule of having eye contact but not to the point of staring, that's just weird, some say creepy, this is a social skill to develop. Also, the frame of your body should not square up to your partner, that is a threatening, overbearing posture and signals challenge and or overconfidence. Either way, it's not something you want to do without buffering it with positive social queues. 

**3. Nod and Show Reactions**

Subtle cues such as nodding or showing facial expressions that align with the conversation can be affirming to the speaker.

    Facial expressions like the raising of an eyebrow, the squinting of eyes(this by the way shows scrutiny and interest), the movement of your mouth such as curling of a lip, or smiling, when showing approval.

**4. Avoid Interrupting**

Let the speaker finish their thoughts before you respond. Interrupting can disrupt the flow of conversation and may make the speaker feel unheard.

    Having the patience to wait until your partner is done, speaking is a good sign of emotional intelligence, as well as maturity. I don't think any of us as children had any solid hold on this behavior.

**5. Reflect and Paraphrase**

Reflect on what has been said by paraphrasing it. For instance, say, “What I’m hearing is…”, and repeat the gist of their message. This shows that you are trying to understand their point of view.

    Asking questions for clarification is also another sign that you were listening but wanted more information about something so you were sure that you understand.

**6. Ask Open-Ended Questions**

Encourage the speaker to elaborate or clarify by asking open-ended questions. This shows your engagement and can help you understand them better.

    When you get them to embellish and add to their thoughts that they are communicating, it allows them to think through what they are trying to communicate as well. Otherwise, you may come across as indifferent.

**7. Offer Empathy and Understanding**

If the speaker is sharing something emotional, offer words of empathy and understanding. Make them feel supported and valued.

    One of the things I have found that most of my feminine friends respond to well is simply emotional response rather than solutions to fix some problem.

**8. Give Feedback Thoughtfully**

When it’s your turn to respond, give feedback respectfully and thoughtfully. Ensure that your response is constructive and relevant to what has been discussed.

    Some of your feedback might be more questions just for your friend or partner's edification to themself about what they feel. This will possibly have them come up with a solution on their own (yes, I'm all about solutions) but not, everybody wants Solutions.

**9. Practice Mindfulness**

Sometimes our minds can wander during a conversation. Practice mindfulness to bring your focus back to the present moment and the person you are engaging with.

    I definitely find myself wandering sometimes, while still paying attention to what the conversation is, and being able to repeat it, when I'm doing that, I am truly not engaged in the conversation. I try not to do this as much as possible, I strive to be attentive.

Conclusion:

Active listening is not just a communication skill; it is a testament to the value and respect you hold for the relationships in your life. By honing this skill, you are bound to experience richer, more fulfilling interactions and relationships. Cultivate active listening and witness the transformative effect it has on your connections with others.

References: 

Thair, R. (2021). The 80/20 relationship rule. Happiful. Retrieved June 26, 2023 from https://happiful.com/the-80-20-relationship-rule 


Comments

Barb McGowan said…
Active listening should be taught in schools starting from preschool!
Paul Norg said…
I totally agree Barb, that's a good point. Along with introductions to critical thinking and studies geared toward the S.T.E.M. initiatives that came about in the last few decades.

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