Learn To Be A Better Listener for Better Relationships
5 Tips to Improve Your Listening and Commuication Skills -- It May Even Save Your Relationship!
Dear April Masini,
Lately I've noticed that I've had trouble with my listening skills. My husband will ask me to do something and then later I'll realize that I have no idea what he asked me to do. I feel constantly distracted and I think I may be developing ADD! My husband gets really frustrated with me, and my poor listening skills might even be jeopardizing our relationship! Do you have any advice or special tips for how I can work on my listening skills? It could save my relationship!"
Sincerely, I Didn't Hear You
April Masini's Advice :
Dear I Didn't Hear You,
Our generation is over-stimulated. We're used to multi-tasking. There are so many layers to the numbers of tasks we do at one time, that it becomes obvious that we wouldn't be able to do them all. Listening is one of the first tasks we drop. It's easy to be having a conversation with someone, texting on a cell phone or computer, changing shoes and watching to see if a child we're caring for is doing anything they shouldn't be. And that's just for starters. Driving, talking on a cell phone, listening to music, watching the traffic, suddenly seeing a pretty girl and getting distracted -- and if we don't forget to listen, we probably forget to drive well.
Is it ADD?
ADD and ADHD are poor excuses for naming the problem. It's unfortunate that the amount of multi-tasking ordinary people do isn't recognized as one of the main reasons we don't listen well. Listening is not just a sense. It's a skill. It's easy to hear sound. It's harder to process it. It's not the listening that's being sacrificed so much as the processing. You know that your wife or your husband or your boss is talking to you, but you're just not processing what it is they're saying. And how could you? You're thinking about something else, doing something else, or doing and thinking about a couple of things at once.
"Auditory processing problems" is now a phrase that behavioral therapists and psychologists use to diagnose "problems" or "challenges" in children, teens and adults.
What it really is, is having too much stimulation on a regular basis, so that we learn to not process what we hear well, and the problem becomes chronic.
Tips to improve listening:
1. If you're talking, you're not listening. Don’t talk when your partner is talking. Don’t interrupt. Just like with driving, where you allow one car length for every 10 miles per hour that the car in front of you is driving, allow space between your partner’s sentences and yours. Give yourself a five or 10 second rule before speaking next.
2. Listen openly -- not like a warrior. If you want to listen and send the message that you don't give a hoot, cross your arms across your chest, jut out one hip, and sneer while the other person is talking. If you want to listen in a manner that encourages communication, sit or stand with an "open" stance. Hands at your sides or in your lap, legs uncrossed, arms uncrossed, face open. Check your body and your face to see if you are listening with an open demeanor next time. You may be surprised to find that this technique takes practice.
3. Practice non-judgmental response. When your partner says something, don’t immediately defend yourself. If you feel the need to comment or vocalize in some way, say "I see." This is a discipline, believe it or not!
4. Train your partner to ask or state. One of the biggest passive aggressive techniques and impediments to clear communication is the statement that was meant to be a question. Instead of saying, "Did you take out the trash?" your partner may say, "You didn't take out the trash," when what he or she really meant to say -- or should have said for clear communication -- was "Did you take out the trash?" This question would have allowed a response instead of a pre-judgment. By not answering statements that are meant to be questions, you will train your partner to say what he or she means and mean what he or she says. This is a technique for the intermediate to advanced listener.
5. Be careful with your words. Surprisingly, one of the biggest problems with non-listeners is that they actually DO listen, and what you DO say is important -- even precious. Practice only saying what you mean, and practice articulating exactly what you intend to say. Respect yourself by respecting your words.