You might think you know how to listen, but there are skills to good listening that can take practice. If someone in your life is repeating themselves or bringing up the same topic over and over again, it is usually because they don’t feel heard. You may need to improve your listening before you can move forward in addressing any particular conflict between you.

Good listening requires:

  • Give your undivided attention. Stop texting, turn off the TV, step away from the computer. Then shut down your internal dialogue and give the other person your full attention. It is common to begin building our “defense” as the other is talking, but give them your full attention and compose your response later.
  • Actively demonstrate that you are listening. Feedback is important. Good listeners show response in their facial expressions and their body language. Show the other person that you are hearing them by reacting nonverbally to what they say.
  • Have patience. Wait for the other person to complete their message before you respond.
  • Avoid undue emphasis on one word or phrase. Don’t pick out the one word they may have misused or the phrase that sets you off. Listen to the entire message and understand that their words may not have been perfectly chosen.
  • Pay attention to what the other person actually says instead of what you expect them to say. Your own filters and expectations can distort the other’s person’s meaning. Try to set all that aside and really hear what the other person means.
  • Listen for the feelings not the facts. The other person may mistake the details in the retelling of an event but don’t argue the facts. Hear what the message is really about and what feelings and thoughts they are trying to communicate. Responding to the facts is a way to avoid hearing and acknowledging the reality of the other person’s feelings.

Sometimes you need more than listening to move past emotional gridlock. Repeated problems with conflict can be a sign that it's time for couples counseling.

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