Of all the things that I hear most about as a therapist that is folks feeling like they are not being listened to. I hear this from adults and children alike. From couples to parent-child relationships. We ALL want to feel listened to. It makes us feel safe and protected. It makes us feel LOVED. And who doesn’t want to feel this way when we are with our loved ones.
So if I had to pick out one thing that would be at the top of my list for good relationship building, it would be to LISTEN with your heart and soul. For seeming so simple, it can feel a bit elusive. Most of us have had experiences where some one says to us, “You are not listening!” Or it may be on the other side of the coin and we are feeling our loved one is really not hearing us or getting what we are trying to say. Let’s take a look at the HOW TO of REALLY GOOD LISTENING.
HOW TO LISTEN SO YOUR LOVED ONE FEELS LOVED
1. “Be There” if You Want it to Count. First up you have to BE THERE for good listening to take place. Of course, we have to be there physically, but we have to really be there on an emotional level as well.
- PHYSICALLY being in the same room, being fairly close, being turned toward, being eye to eye and being in a stance that indicates you are giving your full attention and focus. This would also mean we cannot be looking at our iPhones or on our laptops or watching tv, or face booking etc. We have all gotten a bit obsessed with being “plugged in”. We have to “unplug” to really hear each other.
- EMOTIONALLY being open to putting yourself on hold and hearing what your loved one has to say, being non-judgmental without seeing their feelings as “right” or “wrong”, but just feelings, being open to feeling what it might be like to be in their shoes.
2. Listen without Interrupting, Avoiding Advise Giving. This one is not easy. Many of us struggle with this one. What we have to remember is if we interrupt, it feels like we are not listening. And when we give advise, it might feel like we do not feel our loved one can figure it out on their own. Of it may feel we are discounting their feelings. In other cases, we may be asked for our thoughts and opinions and of course in this case we can share our thoughts for their consideration. Some folks really want this and if so enter in without being overbearing.
3. Acknowledge and Reflect What You Think They Have Said. Try to summarize what your loved one is talking about and to check out if you are getting what they are saying. This helps to do this fairly frequently along the way as it can be hard to reflect if too much is said. This is different from interrupting. Normally interrupting is to give our opinion. Reflecting is letting the person talking know you are really hearing them.
4. Ask How You Can Help. Doesn’t it feel great when someone asks how they can help. We know we are cared for and our loved one is there to support us. So by all means do ask.
- Not Able to Listen due to the environment, time or emotional state you are in. Be honest and open and let your loved one know you really want to hear what they have to say, but you are exhausted and want to give it your full attention when you are in a better state. Do follow-up as soon as possible. Your children are all around you and you feel distracted, so suggest a concrete time to sit and talk when it is more private. Maybe you are very upset with the issue at hand, so you ask for a break to cool down. The main thing is to be concrete with a set time for later if you must delay.
- Avoid Answering Your Phone or Getting Side Tracked with Other’s Interrupting. Doing this will show that your top priority is your loved one. This will go a long ways to a person really feeling listened to.
- Remember when you listen to your loved one, they will reciprocate. Thus the basis for healthy communication.
So LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN. It is the foundation for all good relationships!