Fight Less & Connect More Part II: Listening vs. Hearing

I bet you can count on one hand the number of good listeners that you know.  You know - that person who you can talk to about anything and you know they will not judge you.  They lean towards you as they are gently listening, without interrupting and without giving unwelcomed advice.  When you are finished talking you feel a weight off your shoulders - you feel heard and understood. 

Do you know that person?  Are you that person?

Last week I spoke about how important trust and remaining calm are in the art of communication.  I also provided you with some additional resources if you are struggling in the area of trust.

This week I'm going to dive into the importance of LISTENING.  I'm not talking about an "uh-huh, I heard you" and a head nod kind of listening.  I'm talking about a deep, active - yes, "I understand you" kind of listening.

Did you know that we spend 40% of our day listening to others?  And only 25% of that time are we being effective listeners. 

This means that 75% of what we hear goes in one ear and out the other.  Imagine how much better our relationships would be, if we heard the other 75% of what our spouse said to us.

Effective listening is defined as: 

  1. Taking in information from speakers, while remaining nonjudgmental and empathetic;

  2. Acknowledging the talker in a way that invites the communication to continue; and

  3. Provided LIMITED, but encouraging, input to the talker's response, carrying the person's idea one step forward (Burley-Allen, p. 3)

In essence, listening is about hearing what is said in between the words.<<CLICK TO TWEET>>

Are you a good listener?  Take this short quiz to find out:

How did you do?  My guess is that you may need some work.

I'm not going to tell you to put down your cell, stop typing, stop watching t.v., remove distractions and focus on the person talking to you - because well, you know better! 

But I want you to know that listening is more than just paying attention.  It is about judgement, beliefs, empathy. 

We all listen through a filter. 

This filter consists of past memories, values, interests, feelings, emotions, expectations, physical environments, prejudices, attitudes and assumptions.  These filters have been growing in us since childhood.  We need to be aware of these filters and start listening to the true meaning (or as close as possible).  

Have you ever thought you knew what a person was going to say before they even say it?  This is a past experience or expectations filter.

Have you ever judged someone because of the way they talk or look, or because what they are saying is not aligned with your own values?  This is a prejudices, attitudes or values filter.

Have you ever ignored your spouse because you were angry or annoyed with them?  This is a emotions filter.

What other filters do you use in your listening?

Since listening is a skills that we learn (or don't learn) from early childhood, it can take some work to become a great listener.  To get you started here are some simple active listening skill exercises that can help you and your spouse regain some clarity:

  1. Think about the last conversation you had.  Did you use any of the above mentioned filters?  How could you change that?  How could you actively listen to the other person without that filter in place?  How do you think the conversation would have gone?

  2. Take a couple minutes every day to stop and hear the noises around you.  Really open your ears and notice each individual sound.  Right now, I hear the keys typing, my heater pumping, a small clicking sound and my washer tumbling.  What do you hear?

  3. Ask your partner if they consider you a good listener (and be willing to hear the truth without defensiveness).  Then ask them how you could be a better listener.

  4. Be aware of your judgements and beliefs when you are listening to another person.  Are you judging what they are saying?  Are you actively listening or thinking about something else?

  5. In conversations, pay attention to the nonverbal signals, such as facial expression, body posture, gestures and tone of voice.  What do these nonverbal signals mean?  Do they mean the same to you as another person? 

  6. Imagine a time when you felt truly understood and listened to.  What did the other person do that made you feel so "heard".  Make a commitment to yourself to do these same things during your next conversation.

"One friend, one person who is truly understanding, who takes the trouble to listen to us as we consider our problems can change our whole outlook on the world."  Dr. Elton Mayo

The benefits of actively listening in your marriage are amazing.  Listening can increase self-esteem, decrease misunderstandings, increase trust and respect.  Imagine what your marriage may look like if you can model active listening!

Make the conscious effort today and reap the rewards!

ACTION CREATES CHANGE.  I would love to hear what action you are taking to create change, comment below and I’ll make sure to reply back to personally! Also, please share with one person you think this will help today!

Read Fight Less & Connect More Part III: The Biggest Communication Mistakes & How To Avoid Them

Valerie Kolick, therapist and relationship expert has created this blog to help couples and individuals create happiness and joy in their marriages and lives. If this is your first time here, LEARN MORE here and don’t forget to Download Your FREE Extraordinary Relationship Workbook.