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Are You Really Listening to Me? Tips for Becoming a Better Listener

Posted By Judy Williams || 2-Feb-2015

The topic of listening is far from unfamiliar for most spouses, friends, and family members. "Are you even listening to what I'm saying?" It is a common question in most households and if we are being honest, the answer is usually "no."

But why is this? Even more importantly, can this be the year we resolve to become better listeners? In a recent article posted in the Wall Street Journal, experts weighed in on this universal problem and shared several tips that can be easily implemented in every relationship, starting today.

Why don't we really listen?

To put it simply, we are human. It is most peoples natural inclination to interrupt when someone else is talking, whether to share a similar experience or to simply turn the conversation in another direction. Whatever the reason, it can be a big turnoff for whoever was originally talking.

Furthermore, it is easy to get tired of hearing a similar story or complaint over and over. Relationship researchers call this "listener burnout" and note that it is commonly avoided by prescribing a quick solution to the problem to end the conversation.

It often seems easier to just get the conversation over with and move on, but this can have disastrous results for any relationship, not just spouses. Luckily, the answer to the problem may be nearer than you think.

Turn Yourself into an Active Listener

We often think of listening as a very passive activity. You sit and reflect while the other individual takes their turn to talk. But according to one communication professor, listening may be much more active than you think.

"Active listening" is a phrase often to describe how you should listen to someone else. This type of listening takes more than just sitting back and letting them do the talking. Practice engaging yourself in the conversation, even if you are not doing anything more than making the speaker feel heard.

This starts by engaging "immediacy behaviors" that communicate your interest in the conversation. Eliminate all outside distractions and face your loved one. Make eye contact as much as possible, for this is the first way to show you care about what they're saying.

It's also important to respond to the person's words. Ask to hear more about a particular event, sympathize with their feelings, and use open-ended questions. You should also use short words throughout the conversation—something as simple as "absolutely" or "yep" keeps you interested and tells your loved one that you haven't drifted off.

Above all, remind yourself that you care about the person you're talking to. Don't see the conversation as merely a means to an end, instead, look at it as a way you can invest in their life and make them feel loved. At the end of the day, making yourself an active listening can provide the support your relationship has long been lacking.

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