There are a lot of times where we may feel like we do not know where we stand in our romantic relationship. We may feel confused, lost or anxious. The tool I help my client acquire when faced with this situation is dedicated sit-down conversations. These conversations help detect whether or not you’re still on the same page and are heading in the same direction. However, this can only be effective when active listening is integrated in your conversations.
Have you ever had long and exhausting conversations that achieved nothing at all? Or feel like you're engaging in the same conversation topics with no progress at all? This is often because active listening was not involved. There are times that people hear without actually listening. These may sound the same but are in fact very different from one another. When one merely hears, there is no understanding involved. Words go in one ear and out the other, and we remain focused on our response rather than our partner's experience and feelings.
Active listening, on the other hand, is the conscious effort to actually understand what the other person is trying to convey, and what they are currently experiencing. To be able to make a difference in behavior, one must partake in active listening. The first step to this is entering the conversation with no judgements at all. This way, we can foster an environment that is comfortable for our spouse to open up their true feelings. Trust is also built by doing this.
Next, one must also have a lot of patience and not take what their partner is expressing personally. There will be periods of silence, and one must be comfortable with this. Giving enough space for the speaker to gather their thoughts and emotions are essential in this. Remembering that we do not always cause our partners wounds, but we do trigger them. This can help create empathy rather than defensiveness.
Another important aspect of active listening is verbal and nonverbal feedback. This shows that one is present and engaged in the conversation. Whether it’s through small comments of validation, smiling, making eye contact, leaning in, or mirroring, simple feedback like this will mean a lot to the speaker. It will encourage them to open up more and will make them feel seen, heard, and felt.
The listener must make the effort to further understand what is being said by asking questions and reflecting back what they hear their partner saying every now and then. This ensures that both of you are on the same page which helps avoid confusion and misunderstandings.
Lastly, the listener should summarize what they have understood from the other person and be open to their partner’s feedback. This will show that the listener has a good grasp of what their partner is communicating and experiencing. This also allows the person to clarify their experience and create greater understanding for their partner.
Effective sit-down conversations can only be achieved when active listening is involved. The results of this are geared towards changed behavior as both sides aim to understand each other. This is vital in checking up on the health and status of the relationship and achieving increased connection that can last a lifetime.