Make Him Feel Heard! 14 Easy Steps To Being A Better Listener

December 12, 2012  |  
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It’s said communication is key to a successful relationship, but when we think communication, many of us think about talking. But that’s only half of it. If you feel your relationship is a safe and welcoming environment for you to talk, that’s because your partner is a good listener. If you’re struggling to owe him the same respect, here are 14 behaviors and exercises to keep in mind when your partner wants to open up to you.

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Put away your devices

It doesn’t matter if the work you’re doing on your computer requires none of your brain power: nobody feels they are being listened to if the listener has a laptop propped open on their lap. If anything, it makes them feel a clock is ticking and they better talk fast because you have work or Facebook to get back to. Close your laptop or turn your phone over and push these things away from yourself. Make the speaker feel like those devices are an annoyance to you, and what you really want to do is be listening right now.

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Reschedule if you have to

If a person needs to speak to you about something personal, they’ll appreciate you saying, “I’d like to have this conversation at a time when I can give you my full attention, can we talk in an hour?” rather than just trying to multi-task as they speak.

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Clear your mind

Don’t worry about what you’ll make for dinner that night or checking the bus schedule for tomorrow morning; those things will be there when the speaker is done speaking, and you can’t actually work any of that out while someone is talking to you anyways. You can either end this encounter not having figured out what you’re going to make for dinner and also not having made the speaker feel heard (a double loss), or you can clear your mind and pay attention.

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Meditate

Regular meditation is a great exercise that helps you learn to be present. So, again, it helps you put things in their place; concerns about tomorrow will wait until tomorrow, regrets about the past belong in the past. Meditation helps you learn to enjoy just being here, now.

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Let him finish speaking

Even if you think you know what’s coming, this isn’t about you proving you’re a mind reader. It’s about the other person feeling they could air out their thoughts. Half the healing that comes from venting is just that: letting it all out. Even if the rest of the information isn’t useful to you as the listener, it’s important for the speaker to get it out of their brain and into words.

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Assume you know nothing

Don’t think you know what the speaker’s goal is. Once you think that, you stop listening to what they are saying, and are already thinking of solutions to help them get what you think it is they want. But they may surprise you in the point of their speech.

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Read the sub-text

Don’t only listen to the person’s words. Look at their body language, their facial expressions, the rate at which they speak. Listen to the tone in their voice. This just adds to your understanding of what the person is trying to say because you can often pick up on how they are feeling about what they’re saying, even if they’re not telling you that.

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Don’t judge

Do not at any point, even if you’re feeling it, show judgment. Don’t cringe or wriggle in discomfort. Nobody is perfect. There will be times your partner comes to you to tell you something he did that’s less than respectable. But the respectable part is that he’s coming clean about it. Showing judgment will only force the speaker to hide things they’re ashamed of in the future, stealing from them a healthy outlet through which to work those things out.

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Repeat occasionally

A great way to keep the speaker from wondering if your brain has wandered off or if they are boring you is to periodically paraphrase what they’ve just said. This shows them you want to fully understand them and haven’t trailed off.

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Forget yourself

Don’t think about how what the other person is saying will affect you. Often, the story someone is telling you will have ramifications in your own life. But worrying about those while the person is speaking won’t help anything. Being a good listener can mean helping the speaker with their issues, before moving onto your own.

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Mirror the speaker

Adopt a body language, facial expressions and tone of voice similar to the speaker. This makes them believe you’re feeling what they’re feeling, and makes them feel welcome to speak.

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Tell the speaker you were happy to listen

So they don’t have an added stress when they walked away, that they burdened or bored you, tell the speaker you’re happy they came to you, and if they want to talk about the issue more, you’re available.

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Do not contradict the person’s feelings

Avoid saying things like, “It’s not that bad,” or “Are you sure?” or “It probably seems worse in your own head.” You may be saying these things to make the person cheer up, but what you’re actually doing is belittling their emotions.

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Remember where the speaker is coming from

Draw on the knowledge you have about this person: their family life, what their childhood was like, how stressful their job is etc. Remember, you need to come up with a solution or advice that is viable for this individual person, and each person has a different skillset.

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  • IllyPhilly

    Two ears, one mouth.