Using Listening Techniques to Improve Your Relationship

By Paula Hall

Part of Improving Your Relationship For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Improving communication is a key part of improving your relationship. In fact, it’s the single most significant improvement you can make. To be an effective communicator, you have to be a good listener first. Take these key concepts on board:

  • Attending: This means showing that you’re paying attention. You can do that by ensuring that your body language is open and that you’re facing your partner, and by giving good eye contact. Also nod your head to show you’re listening, and provide minimal verbal cues such as uttering ‘uh, um’ at key points.

  • Restating: If your partner has said something particularly important, demonstrate your understanding by repeating it back – ‘So you’re saying you want me to pick up the kids on the way back from work tomorrow.’

  • Clarifying: If you’re not sure that you’ve understood something, ask for clarification – ‘So are you saying you want me to pick up the kids on the way back from work tomorrow?’

  • Summarising: When you’ve shared a lot of information, you can draw together the main threads to show that you’ve got the full story – ‘So you’re going to have a really stressful day tomorrow and you’re worried about finishing on time, so you want me to pick up the kids on the way back from work.’

  • Encouraging: To demonstrate that you want to listen and you want to hear more, use minimal encouragers to keep your partner flowing. For example, say something like ‘And then what happened?’ or ‘In what way?’ or simply ‘Go on.’

  • Being quiet: Make sure that you don’t do all the talking. Give plenty of space for your partner to speak, and allow quiet times when she can think about what she wants to say next. While this is happening, make sure that you don’t get distracted and start fidgeting or writing tomorrow’s shopping list, but continue to attend physically.