Today is my 15th wedding anniversary. In light of that, I thought I’d share my #1 tip for marital happiness: Listen. What I like best about this tip is that it doesn’t just apply to marriages; it applies to every relationship you have.
It seems that we have forgotten the art of listening. When people talk, we are sometimes so consumed by how we’re going to respond that we aren’t even hearing what is being said. This can lead to misunderstandings, but it can also lead to something worse–disconnect.
Have you ever been talking to someone and noticed that they were not listening to you at all? It’s tough, isn’t it? You’re taking the time to try to communicate something and the intended recipient is mentally somewhere else. If the pattern repeats itself, you may find that you reduce your communication with that person.
With that scenario in mind, I thought about 3 different situations where your listening skills would be crucial. Although you can read the advice with marriage in mind, the information can also benefit relationships with co-workers, children, friends, and even strangers.
When we have conversations, it’s a form of information transfer. Information is given both verbally and non-verbally. If you are too focused on your end of the conversation and what you’re going to say, you’re missing out on a lot of information coming from the other person.
Instead of planning what you will say in response, clear your brain and listen to what the person is telling you. This way, you are more likely to fully hear and understand what the other person is saying.
Listen to what is being said and, if you have questions to help you understand better, ask them.
For a while, I was a manager of a local fitness club. One of the most valuable lessons the owner taught me was how to listen and ask questions when someone is mad. By listening and asking questions, you can diffuse an ugly situation rather successfully and quickly.
The key is that you keep asking the question, “What else?”
You might think that sounds silly. I did. But the truth is that if a person is angry, it’s very likely that they’re not 100% sure why they’re angry.
Let the person tell their story. Listen. When they get completely done with the first part, ask, “What else?” They may stop for a moment and think, but most of the time, there is something else. Then, they’ll tell you about that. Each time, after they finish completely telling you their complaint, ask again. Ask and ask until they have nothing left to say.
When this happens, you’re in a great spot. First of all, the person probably feels a lot better since they got to talk about everything that’s bothering them. Second, by listening, you have shown this person that you care about them and their thoughts and feelings. Third, you have finally gotten to the root of the problem.
When people talk, they very rarely initially identify the root of their problem. Normally, it’s not until they get to the end that they share what is really at the heart of the issue.
Since, as humans, we are all essentially in customer service, this is where the work begins. Now, it’s our turn to speak, and we must be thoughtful about the words we choose.
Please be advised that not all problems are meant for you to solve. Sometimes it’s best to simple say, “I’m sorry that happened to you. That really sounds lousy.”
Let’s not forget that, through listening, we get to learn about people. When we are present in the moment and actually listen to what people are saying, you can learn so much about their personality, sense of humor, not to mention the content of what they are actually saying.
The first night I met my husband, we talked and talked for hours. I can’t even imagine all the stories that I told him, and I don’t remember what he told me. All I remember is that we sat around our friend’s mom’s kitchen table talking while, one by one, our friends fell asleep in front of the TV.
Into the wee hours of the morning, Jon sat and listened. And I felt happy and loved.
Listening is such a valuable tool. Where else do you use it? Let us know in the comments below.
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