The 3 gifts of Healthy Active Listening

I am sure we all have had times when we have shared our thought or concerns with our partner and it ends up either in an argument, a standoff, or they walk away and it just never gets resolved. This is extremely frustrating and results in a separation in the relationship. I hope that each relationship can learn to listen in a way that encourages more honest and open communication. Healthy, active listening can be a gift in your relationship. Let me explain what I mean. The gift can be received in 3 ways.

  1. It is a gift to the other person. By taking the time to really listen and understand your partners ideas, you validate them and allow them to feel safe and secure in sharing their ideas with you. This minimizes their stress and anxiety about sharing with you and being vulnerable and honest.
  2. It is a gift to the relationship. Without trust and honesty in your relationship you are working on a foundation of dishonesty and separateness. The relationship can grow and be strengthened when each partner feels they can share their concerns and be heard. 
  3. It is a gift to yourself. This is true because you will grow in your understanding of the person you are sharing your life with, you will also learn the truth about how your behavior may be affecting the other person. This will allow you to base your feelings and behavior on something you know is true and not on manipulation or fear based conversations

In order to give these gifts we need to use tools that may feel counter intuitive. When someone comes to us with their hurt, a different perspective or a challenging accusation our reaction is to become defensive and to show them that they are wrong. This response is not going to result in any of the 3 gifts. Instead let’s look at some of the different options that may result in these gifts.

  1.  Be curious. Ask questions about what they are sharing. Not in a challenging, interrogation way but in a way that shows you are really interested in their view and thoughts. You might say, “I really want to understand what you are telling me, let me ask you…”
  2. Block defensiveness. Listen to learn and not to challenge. When they are telling you their concern do not look for their misinformation or their errors. Listen for the heart of what they are telling you and don’t nit pick their concerns apart. 
  3. Show understanding. Let the person know that you heard them and understand by saying something like, “Is this what you mean …” or “What I think you’re saying is…” This way you are checking with them, asking if you have it right and showing that you heard them. 
  4. Be open to further conversations. Let them know that you are not silencing them. You want to hear their thoughts and this does not need to be the end of hearing their concerns. 

If you are able to stick to these strategies and avoid the pitfalls of criticism, defensiveness, contempt, anger and avoidance then you will be giving the gift of support to the other person, the gift of commitment to the relationship and the gift of growth to your self. This is not easy but it can bring about great benefit to the relationship and each of you.  

If you need any help, just call me at 562-260-4796

Written by Lisa Strong