Do you ever walk away from a conversation realising you didn’t really take in what the other person said?
What about when you’re in a heated discussion, are you really listening? Or are you thinking of what you’re going to say next? For some thing we do every day – communication can cause a lot of problems if not done in the right way.
We spend about 70 – 80% of our time communicating on any given day, and we spend almost half of that time listening. Though with the increasing distractions, technologies, and endless to-do lists of modern-day life it seems there are many reasons that make it difficult for us to pay attention when we are supposed to be LISTENING!
According to the Gottman Institute, not-listening is among the top reasons why marriages break down. Most of the time, it’s not that we don’t want to listen to our partner, but that our minds are too busy thinking about how to respond or thinking about what we must do after this conversation – that we aren’t really listening to what they have to say. Add differing communication styles, and emotional triggers into the mix, and you have a lot of challenges between really hearing what each other has to say.
If you can keep this in mind, then you’re halfway there (well almost) … When you can leave room for the challenges in understanding one another, and make the time to listen, then you’re allowing for genuine connection, which creates a better environment for you both to thrive in. Some call this active listening, whilst others call it conscious, or mindful communication. The important part is that you are giving it your full attention and listening to understand and not to react.
Better communication doesn’t happen overnight, and there are many things that can get in the way including schedules, parenting responsibilities, pre-existing challenges with hearing, speech, trauma, or cognitive and emotional processing. The list is almost endless, which is why we’ve narrowed it down to 5 steps that will help to improve the communication between you and your partner.
- Be present – No distractions. Keep your body language open and relaxed.
- Stay curious – Ask questions rather than assume.
- Be mindful – Note how you are reacting/speaking/responding/ feeling.
- Go slow – There’s no rush, take your time to reflect before responding.
- Be open – Reserve judgement. Prioritise respectful participation over an outcome.
These skills take time and patience to develop as you continue to build up the quality of your communication. It is an ongoing relationship with you and your partner, so try to enjoy the process as you both get to know and understand each other better.
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