One of the most common problems in relationships is communication. And while some people struggle with being able to talk about their problem, often the main issue is ineffective listening.

When you have a problem that you want to bring up with someone else, or if they bring up an issue to you, there are ways to make the conversation go smoothly.

Learning how to listen is a skill that can be used in every relationship, be it your child, spouse, best friend, or even your neighbor. Using these skills may feel artificial or fake at first, but as you practice them more, and see them working, it will soon become second nature.

  • Focus your attention on the person who’s talking. Turn off the TV, ignore your cell phone, tell the kids to play in their room and close the door. Make eye contact. Turn your body to face theirs.
  • Figure out what the problem is. If your neighbor is upset because your weeds are out of control, keep the conversation on that topic. If the neighbor begins to complain about your cat pooping in their lawn, tell them that you need to talk about one issue at a time, and that you’ll be happy to talk about your cat’s poop at a later time. Stay on topic.
  • Take turns talking and listening. If you stay on one topic, each person will have plenty of time to say what they need to.
  • Refrain from making judgmental statements. That’s ridiculous or how can you say that  have no place in this conversation.
  • Restate what you understand the main point to be, and ask if it’s correct. Repeat until you get it right. For example, Beth comes home at 11:30 PM, and Joe is upset. Beth may say, “so you’re saying that you’re mad because I stayed out late?” Joe replies, “No, that’s not it. I’m mad because this is the third time this week that it’s happened!” Beth tries again, “It makes you mad that I keep staying out late?” Joe says, “Yeah, and it’s like you completely forget about me.” B: “When I stay out late, you get upset, and feel like I’m ignoring you.”
  • Check in with the other person to see if they understand what you’re saying. Phrases like does this make sense? or I want to make sure you understand what I’m saying can help.
  • If the discussion gets too heated, make plans to revisit the issue at a later time. You don’t have to solve a problem with one conversation.

When a person feels like they’re being heard, they become less angry and less defensive. They are more likely to open up about what is really going on because they feel heard, not judged. You will be amazed at what happens when you begin to truly listen to what other people say.



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