Written By: Lauren Steeves
Listen Up, Buttercup
When someone says the L word, it’s usually related to love and the question of when he/she is finally going to say it and take the relationship to the next level. Although this stage of a relationship is exciting and fun, to keep any relationship ticking past this point, I need to bring your attention to another L word—listening.
When you think of what you are looking for in a significant other, being a good listener may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but trust me—listening is fundamental in any relationship. When I think of any fight that I’ve had with my boyfriend, there is always one underlying theme—miscommunication.
I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve told my boyfriend something and he has claimed the classic, “You never told me that.” My frustrations are getting so high that I feel I need to record our daily conversations, so I can playback my words every time he tries to use this defense.
I could go on and on with many examples of how my boyfriend has failed to listen to me, but it would be unfair not to mention the times I’ve also failed to listen to him.
I’ll be the first to admit there are times I’ve zoned out completely, or thought I can “definitely send my friend a text while he’s talking, no problem.” Well, actually it IS a problem.
When it comes to communication, we tend to focus more on speaking than listening. But when we’re the ones talking, we want others to listen— making us seem like hypocrites. So why can’t we do the process in reverse?
The answer can be linked to our short attention spans and the fact that we are now constantly “connected” to each other. With our smart phones, it’s hard not to be distracted by all the emails, texts and snapchats we’re receiving, and it’s even harder to not be tempted to take a sneak peek at Instagram while someone is speaking.
However, by not listening we miss out on important information, stories, and the thoughts and feelings from the people that supposedly mean the most to us. We also cause our partners a lot of feelings of frustration, disrespect and unworthiness. Overtime, something as simple as failing to listen may cause your entire relationship to fail.
Even though we learn the concept of listening as kids, learning how to actively listen takes time and practice. So how can you become an active listener? Try this:
Get rid of all outside distractions. This means turning off Netflix, closing your laptop and putting your phone away. Give yourself the chance to fully engage and connect with your partner.
Keep your eyes on your partner. It’s been proven, that when we actually lock eyes with the person that’s speaking, we increase our chances of information retention and heighten our focus. Plus, who wants to talk to someone who can’t even bother to look us in the eye?
Focus on what your partner is saying. Listen to what your partner is actually saying— rather than thinking of your response. By thinking of your response, you may actually miss the point your partner is trying to make completely.
Avoid interrupting your partner while he or she is speaking. Sure the person may be saying something that you disagree with, but let him or her finish their entire thought before jumping to conclusions.
Take time to connect. Try and connect with your partner everyday in a way that works for both of you. Whether it be over a meal, in bed at the end of the night, having a bath or just talking over a glass of wine—find the time and fully commit.
Active listening is something that requires a lot of effort and work. However, once you’ve mastered the skill, you’ll reap the rewards.