What’s the number one reason why people seek counseling and couples therapy in Highlands Ranch? Based on my clients, communication is the main reason! Too many couples find themselves constantly on “different pages,” missing one another’s messages, and struggling to communicate about the good, the bad, or the in-between. Some of the past blogs on this website have addressed ways to communicate with your partner in a healthy way , but that only deals with one side of the equation. When people seek to improve communication, they must address both parts: “sending” the message, or talking, and “receiving” it—listening. This post will review the five basic steps of active listening and how they can help you to build a stronger relationship.
- Pay attention! Easier said than done, but reminding yourself to pay attention is key to listening actively. This includes not looking at your phone, eliminating distractions, and setting your mind intentionally to listen. This shows the listener that you value their time and their thoughts.
- Show attention. How does the speaker know you’re listening? It’s usually obvious. Your body language speaks louder than words, so make sure you show it. You can accomplish this by making good eye contact, nodding or shaking your head at appropriate times, facing your speaker, and using small gestures where needed. This lets the person speaking know that you are actively listening and valuing their statements, strengthening the bond between you and the speaker.
- Check for understanding. A good deal of verbal communication is missed or misunderstood—check with the person speaking to make sure you truly understand what they are saying by asking a clarifying question (“is this your friend, John, or your brother, John?”), rephrasing their comments (“I hear you saying that your car is having problems and you’re not sure if you want to sell it”), or reflecting their emotions (“you’re sad about the business loss, but still feel motivated”). These statements demonstrate your understanding and open doors to correct miscommunications.
- Be polite. Don’t judge, interrupt, or dismiss someone who speaks to you. Easily said, but remember, this requires active, mindful effort!
Active listening means that you are focusing your thoughts, energy, and attention 100% (or close) on the other person and what they are saying. It requires your brain to be working hard, not to think of your next statement or argument, but working hard to truly understand and hear the person you are speaking with. This is just a small sample of the various skills that you would learn in intensive couples therapy in Littleton. To find out more or develop a personalized plan to improve relationships and communication, set up an appointment with Dr. Lazarus today.