Updated: Jul 30
Do you often find yourself in conversations where you aren’t fully present? You're half listening while thoughts ruminate about your day or what is still to be done? Do you find that halfway through the other person talking, you have formulated your response therefore not allowing you to continue hearing what the other person is saying? Uh ha – thought so.
In this post I want to look at how we can be better at communicating, both talking and listening to our partners, family or friends. So how can we improve our communication skills?
1) Listen – and I really mean listen, without interruption, without guessing what the other person is about to say and without formulating your response before you have listened to the full story! I think this is something many people are guilty of, the other person starts talking, and maybe they say something you disagree with. You instantly think of a counter comment and then that is all you can think about and in doing so you miss what else is being said.
2) Notice the person's emotions – are they excited about what they are talking about or do they seem afraid? Many times, the emotions are missed and by missing those emotions you are only getting half the picture! Emotions are so important when communicating properly as it can allow you to respond in a more caring, affectionate way. It can also help you to express empathy and understanding.
3) Be present – it’s no good having a conversation about something you consider serious when the other person is on their phone, or watching the TV or carrying out chores. If you need to speak to your partner and have a proper conversation, make sure you clear away any distractions. Sit together and be fully present.
4) Try and set aside your personal opinion – oftentimes we project our thoughts and feelings which can cause the other person to shut down, or an argument to erupt. We can often project our own fears, so before stepping in and forcing your emotions onto the conversation, pause and really notice how you and the other person are feeling.
5) Ask open ended questions – try to avoid questions that require a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. Ask how they are feeling, ask what their thoughts and opinions are. This will lead to deeper conversation where both people feel heard.
6) Don’t try and compare your situations to theirs – if they are talking about issues they are having at work, try to avoid saying how you also ‘hate’ your job or one up them with something you are struggling with at work. All experiences are individual and personal.
The best thing you can do is give the other person the space they need to tell their story. Listen and lend support if needed.
We can all learn to be better listeners and this will lead to less arguments, more decisions being made as a couple and less resentment within the relationship.